Fukushima's Stolen Lives: A Dairy Farmer's Story
An English translation of a book by Mr Hasegawa Kenichi, a dairy farmer from Iitate Village in Fukushima, has recently been published and is available on Kindle and iBooks. Hasegawa-san is a strong community leader who has been an important voice for the rights of local citizens, and a regular speaker on Peace Boat voyages, at conferences and field visits including during the Global Conference for a Nuclear-Free World, and in other speaking tours overseas including to Australia and the EU Parliament in Brussels.
Hasegawa-san describes in the book how most of the people in the Japanese village of Iitate ‒ including very young children ‒ continued to live in their homes for more than two months following the Fukushima disaster in March 2011.
Hasegawa describes the catastrophe and its consequences in simple, direct, and clear prose. Weaving together stories about the experiences of Iitate's residents, Hasegawa is a witness to the truth of what life was like immediately following the accident ‒ as he suffered with the knowledge that his children and grandchildren had been exposed to radiation, as he lost all of his cattle, and as he endured the suicide of a fellow dairy farmer and friend.
This is the story of Iitate, but it is also the story of Hasegawa-san, a man who had a lot to lose: a beautiful village steeped in natural history and time-honored traditions, a working dairy farm, a lovely home shared with his extended family, a close-knit community, and colleagues whom he considered close friends. Ultimately, the accident at Fukushima Daiichi ‒ in concert with the profit-minded "nuclear power village" and failures of leadership at every level of government ‒ not only took, but contaminated, all of it: the farm, the fields, the milk, the water, the harvest, the home, and a cherished way of life.
Through it all, Hasegawa pursued the truth by meeting with journalists and taking his own radiation readings. He made sure that the residents in his hamlet of Maeta got what they needed ‒ whether it was bottled water, or reliable information. He confronted lies and hypocrisy in the leadership where he found it. Ultimately, he took a leading role in preserving the interests of everyone and everything he cared about.
Since the evacuation, Hasegawa has organized people from all over Fukushima, including nearly half the population of Iitate, with the goal of getting justice from TEPCO.
Hasegawa-san's ebook is available for US$8 from www.amazon.com/dp/B01GYBERT8
Wanted: someone, anyone to operate Japan's Monju fast reactor
Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) demanded in November 2015 that a new operator should be found to operate the Monju fast-breeder reactor. The new operator would replace the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), a quasi-government organization which was not competent to operate the reactor according to the NRA. Hiroshi Hase, chair of the NRA, said: "We haven't seen acceptable improvements. We cannot fully trust the current organization."
But six months have gone by and a new operator is nowhere in sight. "We are exploring many different options for who will operate the reactor ‒ either a new entity or an existing company," said a government official recently.
Makoto Yagi, chair of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, said Monju's design is quite different from normal power reactors and utilities don't have the requisite expertise.
Last November, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) warned that if a replacement operator for Monju cannot be found, the future of the reactor should be fundamentally reviewed, including the possibility of decommissioning it.
Monju has operated for only 250 days in its 20-year history. The World Nuclear Association provides this warts-and-all summary of Monju's history:
"A key part of Japan's nuclear energy program, Monju initially started in August 1995, but was shut down only four months later after a serious incident. About 700 kilograms of liquid sodium leaked from the secondary cooling loop and, although there were no injuries and no radioactivity escaped plant buildings, this was compounded by operator attempts to cover up the scale of the damage."
"Monju was allowed to restart in May 2010 after JAEA carried out a thorough review of the design of the plant, as well as safety procedures, which were shown to have been inadequate. However, the reactor's operation was again suspended in August 2010 after a fuel handling machine was accidentally dropped in the reactor during a refuelling outage. The device was eventually retrieved almost one year later.
"In November 2012, it was revealed that JAEA had failed to conduct regular inspections on almost 10,000 out of a total 39,000 pieces of equipment at Monju. Some of these included safety-critical equipment. In January 2013, the NRA ordered JAEA to change its maintenance rules and inspection plans. However, following a review of JAEA's performance since then, the NRA found that the agency has failed to formulate and adhere to a strict inspection schedule."
Likewise, Nuclear Engineering International made no attempt to put a positive spin on Monju's track record in an October 2015 article:
"In 2013, NRA ordered JAEA to ban test-runs after more than 10,000 maintenance errors had been found, many involving the facility's piping system. Further safety oversights were subsequently discovered, and in late August some 3000 of errors were found in the safety classifications of the equipment and devices at the reactor during NRA's regular inspection which is conducted our times a year. Some of the errors dated back to 2007, suggesting that previous government inspectors had also overlooked the operator's mistakes. ... NRA officials told a meeting on 30 September that they were unable to grasp the exact nature of the problems, because of JAEA's poor handling of the data."
In addition to lax safety standards, security has been lax at Monju. Reports in 2013 and 2014 said that fencing was inadequate, regular checks to ensure the security of equipment were not conducted appropriately, rules were violated regarding visitors inside areas containing nuclear material, and that the JAEA said that computer hackers may have stolen private data including internal e-mails and training records.
Japan continues to expand its stockpile of 48 tonnes of separated plutonium (10.8 tonnes in Japan, 20.7 tonnes in the UK and 16.3 tonnes in France) and it continues to advance plans to start up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in 2018. Rokkasho would result in an additional eight tonnes of separated plutonium annually.
If Japan abadons Monju ‒ and with it the broader aspiration of developing fast reactors ‒ the only remaining civil use for the plutonium would be the limited use of MOX in light-water reactors.
In response to the latest episode of the Monju saga, Allison MacFarlane, a former chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, offered this sarcastic comment on fast reactor technology: "Many countries have tried over and over. What is truly impressive is that these many governments continue to fund a demonstrably failed technology."
UK nuclear power program: a litany of broken promises
Prof. Stephen Thomas from the University of Greenwich analyses the ongoing controversy over the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power project in the UK in an article published in Energy Policy.
"In 2006, the British government launched a policy to build nuclear power reactors based on a claim that the power produced would be competitive with fossil fuel and would require no public subsidy. A decade later, it is not clear how many, if any, orders will be placed and the claims on costs and subsidies have proved false. Despite this failure to deliver, the policy is still being pursued with undiminished determination. The finance model that is now proposed is seen as a model other European countries can follow so the success or otherwise of the British nuclear programme will have implications outside the UK.
"This paper that the checks and balances that should weed out misguided policies, have failed. It argues that the most serious failure is with the civil service and its inability to provide politicians with high quality advice – truth to power. It concludes that the failure is likely to be due to the unwillingness of politicians to listen to opinions that conflict with their beliefs. Other weaknesses include the lack of energy expertise in the media, the unwillingness of the public to engage in the policy process and the impotence of Parliamentary Committees."
Thomas provides the following table comparing earlier promises regarding the British nuclear power program (and Hinkley in particular) and actual agreements:
What was promised
What was agreed
No subsidies: would compete in the market on equal terms with all other sources.
Contract for 35 years. Government loan guarantees perhaps covering all the borrowing, about £17bn, of the expected (including finance) cost.
No ‘sweetheart deal'
No competitive procurement process
Competitive with other forms of generation generating at £31–44/MW h.
Most expensive power on system, £92.5/MWh: more than double 2013 wholesale electricity cost.
Construction cost excl. finance £2bn per reactor.
Construction cost, excl. finance £8bn per reactor.
First power 2017.
First power 2026.
Consortium 80% EDF, 20% Centrica
Consortium 66.5% EDF, 33.5% Chinese companies
Programme of 12 reactors by 2030
No more than a handful of reactors built by 2030
Competition between developers & technologies.
Bilateral negotiations with NNB GenCo + EPR
Stephen Thomas, 2016, 'The Hinkley Point decision: An analysis of the policy process', Energy Policy, Volume 96, pp.421–431, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516303044
Karlamalyi Walk in Western Australia
Martu Traditional Owners recently led a 140 km, week-long walk to protest against Cameco's proposed uranium mine at Kintyre in Western Australia. Cameco has received conditional government approval to proceed with the mine, but the project has stalled because of the low uranium price.
Kintyre was excised from Karlamilyi National Park ‒ WA's biggest National Park ‒ in 1994. The area still has National Park values ‒ an intricate desert water network and a number of endangered and vulnerable species including the rock wallaby, mulgara, marsupial mole, bilby and quoll. The area includes permanent water holes, ephemeral rivers and salt lakes.
Over 50 artists, activists and Traditional Owners participated in the Karlamalyi Walk. Along the way, stories were told about the land: where water is sourced, where the animals and the plants are, where traditional burial and hunting grounds are located, and why mining on this land must not go ahead.
Aboriginal Traditional Owners are concerned the project will affect their water supplies as well as 28 threatened species in the Karlamilyi National Park. Nola Taylor said the mine represented a threat to the health of people in her community. "It's too close to where we live, it's going to contaminate our waterways, we've got our biggest river that runs right past our community," she said.
"They (Cameco) told me it would be safe, they said all that but we had a cyclone go through here a couple of years back, and for me I have seen what has happened to the river and the water that is in there. I'm going to walk with the rest of the community to fight and stop the uranium mine that's going to go ahead," Taylor said.
Curtis Taylor, a Martu man and filmmaker, is not convinced the waste can be stored safely. "We had assurances given to us by the company but everyone still has that worry, if there was a flooding event that maybe tailings would go into the river," he said.
Joining the walk was Anohni, the Academy Award-nominated musician from Antony and the Johnsons. She said: "It's a huge landscape – it's a really majestic place. It's really hard to put a finger on it but there's a sense of presence and integrity and patience, dignity and perseverance and intense intuitive wisdom that this particular community of people have. There is almost an unbroken connection to the land – they haven't been radically disrupted. They are very impressive people – it's humbling to be around these women. In many regards, I think the guys who run Cameco are desolate souls, desolate souls with no home, with no connection to land, with no connection to country."
From August 7 until September 7, the Walkatjurra Walkabout will be held in Western Australia to protest against the proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine, also owned by Cameco.
Traditional Owner Kado Muir said: "Walkatjurra Walkabout is a pilgrimage across Wangkatja country in the spirit of our ancestors so together, we as present custodians, can protect our land and our culture for future generations. My people have resisted destructive mining on our land and our sacred sites for generations. For over forty years we have fought to stop uranium mining at Yeelirrie, we stopped the removal of sacred stones from Weebo and for the last twenty years we have stopped destruction of 200 sites at Yakabindie. We are not opposed to responsible development, but cannot stand wanton destruction of our land, our culture, and our environment. We invite all people, from all places, to come together to walk with us, to send a clear message that we want the environment here, and our sacred places left alone."
France: Protest at Bure nuclear waste dump site
On June 19, about 200 people established a protest camp in the forest of Mandres-en-Barrois, a short distance from the Bure site where French government agency ANDRA plans to build a high-level nuclear waste dump.
Protesters successfully established the camp, and have maintained a continuous presence since June 19. Fences that surround the construction site were removed, and barricades were built on the path to the site. Protesters plan to maintain the camp indefinitely and to do all they can to stop work at the site, but they will need ongoing support ‒ especially when police attempt to uproot them.
Major deforestation and land clearing operations have recently been carried out by ANDRA despite local opposition.
Protesters said in a statement:
"Today, on Sunday, 19th, 2016, we have temporarily freed the communal woods of Mandres-en-Barrois from Andra's yoke with its CIGEO nuclear garbage dump. In front of our great wooden pavilion, assembled where the first steps of deforestation were taken, we, resisting inhabitants from here and other places, NGOs, collectives, declare the Woods of Mandres occupied!"
"Today we are occupying this forest to physically oppose ourselves to its being annexed by ANDRA. We are occupying it because we cannot stand to hear the crash of trees being uprooted, because their razor blade wire fences, their mercenaries and big dogs will not stop us from resisting. We are occupying it to stop the territory from being stolen away from the people by the hungry hands of nuclear industry.
"We are occupying this forest in order to prevent the beginning of works for CIGEO. We know that nothing in the shiny corridors of Parliament can stop the dump being dug, that only a territorial struggle can do it.
"We are occupying this forest with another type of life, joyful, inventive, collective, against nuclear society and its world of military and private security guards, of smiling experts and quiet dosimeters, a world set to exploit the ground and its people as much as possible. Where they want to deforest, we are building shelters. Where they raise wire fences, we open paths. Where they are manufacturing a desert of solitude and resignation, we are claiming our joy together, while resisting. So now, all summer, everyone must come to Bure to stop CIGEO!"