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Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The latest issue of Nuke Info Tokyo, the bimonthly English-language newsletter produced by Japan's Citizens' Nuclear Information Centre (CNIC), has been published. It's well worth subscribing to the newsletter and it's free ‒ email Some of the content from the latest newsletter is summarized here.

Federation for Nuclear-Free Renewable Energy Launched

"Genpatsu Zero – Shizen Enerugi Suishin Renmei" (translated as "Federation to Promote Nuclear-Free Renewable Energy") was established on April 14, with a press conference held in Tokyo. Tsuyoshi Yoshiwara, who has served as advisor to the board of the Johnan Shinkin Bank and has appealed for the elimination of nuclear energy from a managerial standpoint, was appointed as president. Hiroyuki Kawai, who represents "Datsu Genpatsu Bengodan Zenkoku Renrakkai" (the Nationwide Liaison Association of Nuclear-Free Defense Lawyers), was appointed managing director. Two former prime ministers ‒ Junichiro Koizumi and Morihiro Hosokawa ‒ are listed as advisers.

Reactor restarts

Kansai Electric Power Co.'s (KEPCO's) Takahama Unit 4 reactor (PWR, 870 MW) was restarted on May 17, and Takahama Unit 3 (also PWR, 870 MW) was restarted in early June. Together with Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai Units 1 and 2 (both PWR, 890 MW) and Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata Unit 3 (PWR, 890 MW), which have previously resumed operation, this will make five nuclear reactors that have been restarted in Japan. All of them are pressurized water reactors (PWR). Not one boiling water reactor (BWR) has yet been restarted.

CNIC statements on compensation for Fukushima victims and Takahama reactor restarts

CNIC recently released two statements on court cases related to nuclear issues, which have been translated into English so that international readers can read about these important court rulings as well as get an update on what is happening on the legal scene in Japan.

In May 2016, Nuke Info Tokyo #172 published an article on court cases associated with nuclear facilities in Japan after the Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture, western Japan, issued a provisional injunction ordering Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) to shut down Takahama Units 3 and 4. Unfortunately this court order was overturned by the Osaka High Court, the subject of one of the CNIC statements. Although the higher court in Osaka overturned the lower court's injunction on Takahama, the fact that this NPP was unable to operate over the past year is significant, both in terms of reducing the risk of an accident during this time and in disrupting the finances and planning of KEPCO.

The other CNIC statement applauds the Maebashi District Court for its ruling which makes clear that the government of Japan and TEPCO may be liable for the Fukushima Daiichi accident. It is hoped that the Maebashi District Court's judgment will not be overturned even though TEPCO and the government have lodged an appeal.

The two statements are posted at:

India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement approval bill passes the Lower House of the Diet

The India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which was signed with great fanfare when Indian PM Narendra Modi was visiting Japan in November 2016, has since been working through the Japanese ratification process. It was presented to the Lower House of the Diet on April 14 and was then referred to the Lower House Committee on Foreign Affairs for deliberation.

After two hours of deliberations on April 28, when Committee members questioned three witnesses, and then another full day of questioning, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and related bureaucrats on May 10, the Committee approved the Agreement in the vote on May 12. Many serious questions were raised by both the independent witnesses and opposition lawmakers, such as whether provisions in the Agreement would adequately prevent India, a country possessing nuclear weapons, from using Japanese technology for military purposes; if India conducted another nuclear test, would Japan even be able to end the Agreement? And even if they could, what could be done about reactors that had already been sold to India? There were no clear answers from the Minister down and it seemed that they were hardly serious about debating this vitally important issue, knowing that they had the numbers to push it through.

After clearing the Committee in this way, the bill was sent back to the Lower House where Shinji Oguma, an MP from Fukushima, led the opposition against it. Once again, however, because of the ruling coalition's overwhelming majority, the serious problems with the Agreement, which were again emphasized by Oguma and others, were ignored and the bill passed. The battleground shifted to the Upper House, which approved the Agreement on June 7.

Evacuation orders lifted for Iitate, Kawamata, Namie, Tomioka

The Japanese government has lifted evacuation orders for zones it had designated as "areas to which evacuation orders are ready to be lifted" and "areas in which residents are not permitted to live" as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The orders were lifted in Iitate, Namie and the Yamakiya district of Kawamata on March 31 and in Tomioka on April 1. Evacuation orders for "areas where it is expected that residents will face difficulties in returning for a long time" (or, more briefly, "difficult-to-return zones") remain in place.

The evacuation orders originally affected a total of 12 municipalities, but had been lifted for six of those as of last year. The latest rescission of orders has brought the ratio of refugees allowed to return to their homes to about 70%, with the area still under evacuation orders reduced to about 30% of its original size. TEPCO intends to cut off compensation to these refugees, with a target date of March 2018, roughly a year after the evacuation orders were lifted. Additionally, the provision of free housing to "voluntary evacuees," who evacuated from areas not under evacuation orders, was discontinued at the end of March 2017.

The number of people forced to abandon their homes due to the Fukushima nuclear accident reached a peak of 164,865 people in May 2012, when they had no choice but to evacuate. Now, even six years later, 79,446 evacuees (as of February 2017) continue to lead difficult lives as refugees.

In the six municipalities for which the evacuation orders were lifted last year, the repatriation of residents has not proceeded well. Repatriation ratios compared to the pre-disaster population have been about 50 to 60% for Hirono and Tamura, about 20% for Kawauchi, and not even 10% for Naraha, Katsurao and the Odaka district of Minamisoma, where radiation doses were high.

The number of evacuees affected by the current lifting of evacuation orders for the four municipalities is 32,169. The ratio of positive responses to a residents' opinion survey conducted by the Reconstruction Agency from last year to this year saying they would like to be repatriated was rather low, with about 30 to 40% for Iitate and Kawamata, and less than 20% for Namie and Tomioka. During the long course of their evacuation, spanning six years, many of the residents had already built foundations for their lives in the places to which they had evacuated.

In a Cabinet Decision on December 20, 2016, the Japanese government adopted a "Policy for Accelerating Fukushima's Reconstruction." This policy promotes the preparation of "reconstruction bases" in parts of the "difficult-to-return zones" and the use of government funds for decontamination toward a target of lifting the evacuation orders for these areas in five years and urging repatriation. "Difficult-to-return zones" span the seven municipalities of Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, Namie, Iitate, Katsurao and Minamisoma. By area, they account for 62% of Okuma and 96% of Futaba. The affected population numbers about 24,000 people.

The government's repatriation policy, however, is resulting in bankruptcies. Rather than repatriation, they should be promoting a "policy of evacuation" in consideration of current conditions. Policies should be immediately implemented to provide economic, social and health support to the evacuees, enabling them to live healthy, civilized lives, regardless of whether they choose to repatriate or continue their evacuation.

Citizens' Nuclear Information Centre, May/June 2017, Nuke Info Tokyo No. 178,