Friday, June 29, 2018
This map, above, made in 2015, shows the number of radioactive mushrooms detected. Namie has the highest number, and Nihonmatsu has the second. Evacuation to Nihonmatsu didn’t necessarily guarantee evacuees safety. See here.
Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture, at a 2014 keynote address in Fukushima, Japan.
A photo from an interview that appeared in print July 4, 2017.
A notable difference in appearance from 2014, especially in his skin.
He had been evacuated from Namie in 2011 but had returned in April, 2017.
THIS INTERVIEW IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE FOR ALL TO READ WHO THINK EVERYTHING IS 'JUST FINE' IN FUKUSHIMA.
IT IS NOT 'FINE', IT IS HOPELESS AND THE RADIATION IS UNENDING.
THIS MAN DIED HOPING TO SAVE A TOWN, BUT HE KNEW THAT ANY WHO RETURNED WOULD LIKELY DIE FROM IT, AS HE DID.
In that article, it was noted that "Namie is located just 11.2 km (almost 7 miles) from the nuclear power plants, and that it took four days from the explosion of the power plants before Tokyo issued an evacuation order.
FOR FOUR DAYS, RESIDENTS WERE EXPOSED TO VERY HIGH LEVELS OF RADIATION.
The government’s belated order was consonant with its decision to withhold information on radiation levels provided by SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information) in order to avoid “public panic.”
Consequently, many residents of Namie as well as other neighboring villages and towns were exposed to high radiation.
[H]is [Baba] slogan, “Save the Town,” has invited criticism as it seems oblivious to the fact that most residents have no intention to return and, moreover, encouraging people to do so is likely to risk their health and livelihood.
The interview suggests an insoluble tension between Mr. Baba’s urge to save his beloved hometown and his awareness of the risks entailed – the “save the town” policy’s potential danger of prioritizing the welfare of the community over individuals’ health and lives.
From that interview:
Hirano: How many people or households have actually returned since then?
Baba: As of May 31st, 2017 165 households–234 people–have come back.2 This is only 1% of the former residents, which is very disappointing. But I have a feeling that as time passes, more people will return, since I’ve started seeing some residents beginning to repair their homes or beginning to build new ones here and there.
Hirano: I heard that evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture, particularly young married couples or families with children, tend not to return because of the risks associated with radiation exposure. Do you see the same tendency in Namie?
Baba: I think so. In fact, most of the returnees are elderly people.
Hirano: As mayor, do you have any concerns that bringing people back might increase the risk of internal radiation exposure, especially among children and young people? For example, in Chernobyl, the 30 km exclusion zone is still in place to this day, but in Fukushima, residents’ return is being promoted even in areas within 20 km of the nuclear plant. Since there is a limit to what can be achieved through decontamination, I would be concerned that the increased possibility of internal exposure poses a serious problem to residents.
Baba: I cannot say there is no risk, but a personal dosimeter has been distributed to everyone, and we closely monitor the residents’ health. The town officials also have been taking responsibility for measuring the radiation in food.
Hirano: I’d like to ask about the risks and concerns about contaminated soil and radioactive waste disposal. The government has been taking the lead in decontamination efforts. However, there are still areas where the air dose rate has not gone down to previous levels or where we still detect radioactive hot spots.4 How have you been communicating with the central government about these problems? For example, asking to speed up the decontamination operations, or to work more efficiently?
Baba: First of all, at the time the government let this accident happen, they declared that the radiation dose in the air would be reduced to under 1mSv annually, so we have been asking them to continue with decontamination work until it goes down to that number. So there is continuing decontamination work in areas with higher doses, and we have been strongly urging the government to make every effort to lower the dose below 1mSv.
Amaya: So you have been asking the government to do their job, but do you think the decontamination efforts have actually been making adequate progress in Namie?
Baba: Well, we have to realize there are many acres of land to cover, so although it has not progressed as we hoped, no matter how long it takes, there will be no change of plan. I will continue to urge the government to keep decontaminating until the radiation level goes down to 1mSv or less, as they promised.
...In order to make it happen, however, it is necessary to reduce the radiation level through decontamination work. The central government has set 3.8 microSv/h as the standard.
Hirano: Actually that standard is 20 times higher than what was originally determined by law, isn’t it? In fact, it is a standard that is applied only to Fukushima in entire Japan. Some experts claim that there is no such thing as an absolutely safe standard - that the best thing is to avoid radiation exposure as much as possible, especially internal exposure. What do you think about those views?
Baba: It would be a lie if I said that I am not concerned about it. But as long as the central government responsibly asserts that it is safe, we have no choice but to believe what they say and proceed with reconstruction.
Hirano: I’d like you to tell us about the reactor decommissioning. It is said that it would probably take at least 30 to 40 years to complete the decommissioning. First, what are your thoughts on that?
And second, there is a potential risk that a nuclear accident could occur during the decommissioning work. I expect it would cause tremendous anxiety to the residents of the town if that should happen. Also, this potential risk might affect the decision of some former residents to return. Do you have any specific plans or measures to handle the situation in the event of an accident?
Baba: Alright. Well, to put it simply, they have set a goal to complete the decommissioning work in 30 or 40 years. However, judging from the current situation, I have to say it is an open question whether that goal can be met. I believe that TEPCO and the central government should set forth a policy that puts safety and security first.
It’s already been six years since the accident, but they haven’t figured out how to remove the debris. Not only that, also they haven’t decided on where to store the debris and what to do with it afterwards. So there is a serious question about bringing residents back to town.
On the other hand, is it all right to just leave things as they are? That’s related to the question of whether people can come back to such a dangerous place. Decommissioning has to be done right so that we can provide residents with a safe place to live in the future. Simply put, we want the central government and TEPCO to restore our land to its original condition. That is the direction I am pursuing.
Actually I sometimes have a nightmare that during the decommissioning work, something accidentally collides with the debris and radiation gets released outside again.
When I think about how to evacuate the residents, I am terrified.
Therefore, we really need to review the nuclear disaster readiness plans to make sure that residents who already came back and those who will return, will be able to evacuate safely in the event of an accident. We need to plan ahead about how to proceed with the evacuation and how to provide adequate care at evacuation sites, things like supplies of food and clothing, including how and where to get these items. In addition, in order to protect ourselves in the event of an unexpected radiation accident, we need to have a shelter made of concrete in Namie, so I would like to prepare that as well.
Amaya: Speaking of dealing with radioactive waste, Chernobyl built a concrete shield, the so-called sarcophagus, to cover the destroyed reactor, which locks in radioactive material safely for a relatively long period of time. If it is determined that the removal of waste is too risky and that shielding is the only way to handle the situation, would you as mayor accept the decision?
Baba: Well, constructing a sarcophagus means locking the radioactive material inside, but I am not sure if that’s actually possible. That would turn this town into a final disposal site. In that case, I wonder if people would actually be able to live here, to lead a normal, human life in such an environment. So I think we have to get the dangerous material removed, that this is necessary for humans to go about the business of being human.
If I were to accept the construction of sarcophagi, I would have to ask the central government to relocate our entire town just as occurred in Chernobyl. It means that no one would be allowed to live within 30 kilometers anymore and that were told to live somewhere else.
If that had been the plan from the beginning, I think it might have worked out, but I’d have to say, don’t come to me now with such a request.
Amaya: After six years have passed.
Baba: That’s right. It’s too late now.
Amaya: It would be hard to have people coming back and then say, sorry, it’s not going to work.
Baba: Exactly. I have a hard time accepting it. But in fact, however, I know some people who want to return are still questioning whether it’s possible to come back to such a dangerous place, so in that sense I might be contradicting myself a little.
The bottom line is that I want to borrow wisdom and skill from around the world and have the danger removed. But the technology is just not advanced enough for that job, so I know it won’t be easy. All I can do is trust what they’re doing. The decontamination workers here have been working so hard for us.
Hirano: A TEPCO top executive said he felt extremely sorry about the communities being completely destroyed by the nuclear disaster. He said TEPCO also admits its responsibilities. On the other hand, however, he said he is not convinced that we should stop the operation of nuclear power plants right now when it comes to future energy needs in Japan. He believes people still need nuclear energy. I think this is still the dominant opinion within TEPCO. What are your thoughts on this?
Baba: I don’t believe we need nuclear power plants any more. We learned the lesson from this disaster that what matters most is the safety and security of our people, not things like energy policy.
The people of Fukushima also agree that nuclear reactors must be shut down, that the No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant should be decommissioned. The Fukushima Prefectural Government and all municipal assemblies have submitted a request to decommission all reactors in the prefecture.
I believe we will be fine without nuclear power. I can say that because if you followed the energy situation in March of 2011 right after the accident when all the reactors were shut down, it even looked like we had an energy surplus. It’s not all about nuclear. I believe we’ll be fine using renewables.
Hirano: Even among people who promote renewable energy, some argue that local governments, nuclear power plants and electric companies can coexist as long as they can prevent that mistake from ever happening again.
What do you think about this assumption?
Baba: That is based on the principle of expecting the unexpected. We just had the first trial of the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.6 We just had the opening session of the criminal proceedings on the Fukushima Nucelar Disaster. We know, from the materials filed for the complaint, that it was possible for TEPCO to anticipate a giant tsunami. Seismologists brought in by TEPCO had already warned them of such a possibility in 2008 or 2009.
Did they or did they not know this sort of thing? It’s their criminal liability that will be examined in this trial. I’m not sure if they simply ignored the warning or how they dealt with it, but I think more internal documents will be revealed in the course of the trial.
So, they obviously didn’t do anything about it, even though such predictions had been made. You can’t call this an example of expecting the unexpected, since a giant tsunami had in fact been anticipated. I believe there were various methods they could have taken to prevent the disaster. For instance, they could have made a backup system to avoid a tsunami-induced station blackout; they could have moved the power facility to a higher location; or they could have raised the height of the seawall a bit.
They did none of that, then later they claimed that it was simply a natural disaster and that it was not their fault. This is unacceptable. There are people among the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) who say it was a human-made disaster. I also believe that it was a human-made disaster.
In fact, I can say human error was clearly involved. One reason is that there were other places where these human errors didn’t occur. The Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant managed to escape the disaster through manual venting, despite the fact that the plant suffered severe damage. But the thing is that the No. 2 Plant is located at a higher elevation than the No. 1 Plant, which sits almost at sea level. Therefore, TEPCO should have moved the power supply of the No. 1 Plant to somewhere higher to avoid damage from a tsunami.
Or they should have thought of ways to protect the backup power supply and the reactors’ cooling systems in case of tsunami-induced flooding.
Another reason why I believe it was human error is that we learned from a NAIIC report that the piping of the cooling system had already been cracked and damaged by the earthquake before the tsunami hit. If so, the reactors would have been heating up even before the tsunami arrived, because cooling water had not been getting to the reactor core through the damaged pipes. And this situation eventually led to the hydrogen explosion.
This was definitely human error, there is no doubt about it.
Kawano: Did you have any opportunities to learn about or discuss the risks that nuclear power plants might pose at the local level before 3.11? In other words, were Namie residents, including town officials, informed about what kind of impact a nuclear accident could bring before the accident?
Baba: No. Unfortunately, I used to be an advocate of nuclear power.
I regret it deeply.
I used to believe that it made sense to generate electricity by nuclear power.
The reason is that all explanations I received from the central government and TEPCO were biased by the safety myth that Japan’s nuclear power plants were absolutely safe. The core of the safety myth is its redundant fail-safe system.
We were told how their dual system would work to prevent a serious accident. For example, if X occurs, then Y will work, and if Y doesn’t work, then Z will kick in. They explained it to us very believably, and I took their words on trust. In fact, that is what the central government and TEPCO have been doing in order to build nuclear power plants.
I was completely immersed in the safety myth. So I remember my mind going completely blank when the accident occurred. I was facing something that I had never imagined. What?! Nuclear power lets this kind of thing happen? I thought.
It had never occurred to me that such an accident could occur.
Hirano: They can interpret “individual circumstance” anyway they want, can’t they? That is the same idea as “voluntary evacuation.” For example, residents outside the evacuation zone of 20 km radius of the nuclear plant are all regarded as “voluntary” rather than as “mandatory” evacuees. As a result, they were not eligible for compensation even though some of the residents’ houses were located in so-called hot spots (where the radiation exceeds even the exceptional reference value of 20 μSv, the standard that applied only to Fukushima after 3.11.) That created a lot of problems and I think this “individual circumstance” talk might be the same.
Baba: Exactly. They can interpret it anyway they want.
Hirano: You have been in touch with the victims and former residents. Is there something concrete you would single out for compensation or assistance from your observation of their lives?
Baba: Well, I’d have to say first, all their livelihoods are gone. Also, their neighbors are gone. It’s now been three months since I came back to Namie, after six years of evacuation, but I don’t have any neighbors, so I have no one to talk to. So that kind of communication has been lost. I can’t assign monetary value to what we’ve lost, but I never thought that I would end up having such a miserable life.
When it comes to expressing it in monetary terms, I definitely think that compensation should match our mental anguish. That is what the people in Namie think these days.
People in Namie often tell officials from TEPCO and the central government at residents’ briefing sessions, “You people are from the outside. Why don’t you try living in evacuation shelters! You might live in Tokyo now, but how would you feel if you were forced to live in, say, Nihonmatsu where Namie residents were forced to relocate. And for six years.”
We have our ancestors’ graves here in town, and everyone visits their family graves. If the town is gone, they cannot even pay their ancestors a visit. Even though they might live somewhere else, I would like to restore the town to an environment where they can pay their ancestors a visit.
Let me tell you, there was in fact an unofficial government plan at the time of the accident to relocate the entire town to another place. This town isn’t habitable any more. Please look for another place and move the town. There was that kind of thinking. However, after considering various factors, the government changed their policy from relocation to reconstruction.
Hirano: Did the central government ever explain why it gave up the idea of relocating the entire town of Namie?
Baba: No, because it was not an official plan, there was no explanation given to us.
While one of the original articles announcing his resignation due to cancer treatment, published just 16 days ago, has been deleted, thanks to the Internet's 'Wayback Machine', we can read it in the original Japanese <HERE>.
The first paragraph translates to
"Mayor Baba in Namie Town is currently hospitalized in a hospital in Fukushima City for the treatment of cancer and submitted a request for resignation to the town council on the 13th."
The last paragraph also saddened me:
"A 60-year-old woman [I talked with] who lives in the town also said, "In the past seven years, I have repeatedly hospitalized and discharged, but I work hard for Namie Town, and I got my eyes on the appearance that I worked hard and now I want you to take care of my body."
I learned yesterday that Tamotsu Baba, mayor of the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture since 2007, had died in hospital, succumbing to gastric cancer, which he was diagnosed with and extensively treated for last year.
He was only 69 years old.
He had resigned his office on June 13 and passed away on June 28.
He was a staunch supporter of Shinzo Abe's determination to force evacuees back to the Fukushima Prefecture before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, BUT he also recognized the real danger of returning residents to these areas that can NEVER be properly decontaminated, areas that are RE-contaminated every single day.
His specific illness and the cause of his demise has hardly been reported in Japanese mainstream media.
NOTHING was mentioned of a link to radiation from the nearby highly radioactive Dai'ichi Nuclear Facility to his specific cancer, but he surely had thought of that when diagnosed?
Though he had advocated, actually pushed, for a return of evacuees to the still-radioactive towns in that prefecture, he readily admitted the many hazards to those who did so.
Some will say it isn't provable that this cancer was indeed the result of long-term exposure to the Fukushima meltdowns and continuing very high levels of radiation emanating from that source.
We don't know how much radiation he was initially exposed to,or for how long, if he was consuming food from that prefecture, if he drank from local wells, etc.
We don't know much about anything over there because mainstream media is, perhaps reasonably so, still afraid to publish anything that links deaths and upsurge of cancers in Japan to Fukushima.
We must remember Abe's gag order back in 2013, not only on the press, but applied to physicians, hospital staff, public officials, private citizens, scientists and college professors.
"Public officials and private citizens who leak "special state secrets" face prison terms of up to 10 years, while journalists who seek to obtain the classified information could get up to five years."
To imagine that order has been fully rescinded, IN TOTO or in FACT, is to assume too much.
The Olympics in Tokyo must go on!
The gag order marked a return to the days of prewar and wartime Japanese militarism, when the state used the Peace Preservation Act to arrest and imprison political opponents, many said.
"It is a threat to democracy," said Keiichi Kiriyama, an editorial writer for the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, adding that the legislation would "have a chilling effect on public servants, who could become wary about giving the information" to journalists.
The secrecy bill's hasty passage through the lower house [was] marked by noisy public demonstrations and opposition from journalists, lawyers, politicians, academics and scientists, as well as film directors and manga artists concerned about freedom of expression.
They say the prospect of prison terms will deter whistleblowers from leaking sensitive or embarrassing information in the public interest, and journalists from trying to obtain it."
FUKUSHIMA IS NOT OVER!
THIS MAN, BABA'S LIFE IS OVER, AND PERHAPS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF JAPANESE PEOPLE WILL DIE JUST AS HE DID, WITH THE FACTS BEHIND THEIR DEMISE JUST AS SECRETIVE AND HIDDEN BY THE PRESS AS HIS WAS.
TEPCO IS ONCE AGAIN STALLING AS TO THE REMOTE POSSIBILITY OF ANY REAL "CLEAN-UP" OF THE DAI'ICHI PLANT.
NO ONE IN THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY OR IN OTHER NATIONS' GOVERNMENTS ARE PUSHING THEM FOR INTERVENTION, TO TAKE AWAY FROM THEM THIS NEEDFUL PROCESS TO STOP THE RADIATION, TO SAVE AS MANY AS WE CAN.
NO ONE IS LOOKING OUT FOR THE MILLIONS WHO MIGHT ATTEND THE OLYMPICS THERE, WHO WILL OR HAVE VISITED JAPAN SINCE THE RADIATION WAS INITIALLY RELEASED.
IT'S STILL PROFIT$ OVER THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIVES.
SOMEONE, SOMEHOW, MUST TEACH ABE AND THE HEARTLESS NUCLEAR ENERGY INDUSTRY TO VALUE HUMAN LIVES ABOVE ALL ELSE!
WE MAY NEVER KNOW HOW MANY HAVE DIED, ARE DYING TODAY, WILL DIE IN THE FUTURE BECAUSE OF THIS PREVENTABLE DISASTER, BUT, BY ALL THE GODS, WE SHOULD DEMAND THEIR ACCOUNTABILITY!
IF ALL WHO WORK FOR THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY HAD TO LIVE RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO THESE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS, WE'D SEE CHANGES AND SAFETY POLICIES REVISED SO FAST IT WOULD BLOW OUR MINDS.
FROM THE INTERVIEW WITH BABA, THE AUTHORS' NOTES, ETC.
Namie Mayor Baba Tamotsu interviewed by Katsuya Hirano with Yoshihiro Amaya and Yoh Kawano at Namie town hall, July 4th, 2017. Introduction by Katsuya Hirano, Transcription and translation by Akiko Anson
Arai Takako, Disaster Poetry from Ōfunato, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 15, Issue 2 No 5, Jan 15, 2017
Robert Stolz, A Much Greater Event Has Already Taken Place, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 14 Issue 6 No 1, Mar 15, 2016
David McNeill and Paul Jobin, Japan’s 3.11 Triple Disaster: Introduction to a Special Issue 特集 3.11 The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 12, Issue 7 No 1 Feb 16, 2014
Oguma Eiji, Nobody Dies in a Ghost Town: Path Dependence in Japan's 3.11 Disaster and Reconstruction, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11, Issue 44, No 1 Nov 3, 2013
Other interviews on the Fukushima nuclear disaster by Hirano can be found here.
The tsunami caused by a magnitude 9 earthquake killed almost 19,000 people along the northeast coast of Japan, and triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants. The accident forced more than 150,000 people living near the plant to evacuate in order to avoid radiation exposure. On April 1 2017, the government of Prime Minster Abe Shinzo lifted the evacuation order, enacting the “return policy” based on the claim that decontamination had successfully removed radioactive contaminants from major areas that had been designated as evacuation zones. The measure used to make this claim is 3.8 microSv/h or 20 microSv/y, which is 20 times higher than the international standard, which still applies to the rest of Japan. Despite the government’s push for its “return policy,” the majority of former residents of the affected areas have no intention to return. For details see my interview with Suzuki Yūichi.
According to the homepage of Namie township website, as of August 2017, 254 households – 362 people – have returned. Two gas stations, two convenience stores, and two local banks have (re)-opened. How such a small population could sustain them is unclear. Suzuki Yūichi in the aforementioned interview expresses his skepticism.
Minami Soma City and its neighboring towns including Namie have been working with universities and companies that manufacture robotics as part of their plans to revitalize Fukushima’s industries. The area was known as a hub for innovation in robotics prior to the disaster, and now they are trying to restore its central role in robotics initiatives.
See my interview with Yūichi Suzuki.
See Hiroaki Koide’s point in my interview with him. Koide makes it clear that there is no absolute standard that guarantees “safe” exposure to radiation. Any radioactive exposure, especially internal exposure, poses some risk. It is best to minimize exposure. It is also clear that infants, young people, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to radioactive exposure.
The Japanese government’s evacuation plans never took this factor into consideration. It is worth noting that in Chernobyl 20mSv would still constitute a “no-go zone. ” The Japanese government has never rescinded the Declaration of a Nuclear Emergency Situation （原子力緊急事態宣言）, part of a law enacted in 1999. This law reflected ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) "post-accident" period standards and took the upper end of that and seemingly made it applicable indefinitely.
I thank Norma Field for providing this important perspective on ICRP.
Apparently, Mr. Baba was confusing the Inquest with the actual criminal trial: only the opening session of the trial had taken place (June 30) at the time of the interview (July 4).
The first session of the trial of ex-Tepco chairman Katsumata Tsunehisa, 77, and former Vice Presidents Muto Sakae, 67, and Takekuro Ichiro, 71, who are charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury, was held in June 2017.
The prosecutors charged that the TEPCO executives had been cognizant of the data and reports that a tsunami more than 10 meters high could cause a power outage and other serious consequences, yet they took no actions to remedy the situation.
For example, the prosecutors argued, the 2002 estimate by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion indicated that there was a 20 percent chance of a magnitude 8 earthquake striking off Fukushima within 30 years.
The Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, the citizen’s group consisting mainly of victims of the triple meltdown in 2011, had been working hard to have prosecutors accept their criminal complaints sine June 2012, but it was not until July 2015 that indictment of the three former executives was filed.
Residents of Fukushima and people of other prefectures have filed criminal complains against more than 50 policymakers and TEPCO officials since 2012. See more details in my interview with Mutō Ruiko, Norma Field’s essay, the website of the Complainants, and Tomomi Yamaguchi and Mutō Ruiko.
Joel Rheuben and Luke Nottage write: “As early as April 2011 TEPCO began to make provisional compensation payments of up to JPY 1 million (just over USD 10,000) to evacuees, to be supplemented by full payments once the company’s compensation scheme was in place.
At the same time, the national government began making provisional payments to affected small and medium-sized businesses in the region, particularly in the tourism sector. In accordance with the Nuclear Damage Compensation Law, the government also established an expert “Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation” (the “Dispute Reconciliation Committee”) under MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology) to create a set of non-binding guidelines to inform payment amounts.
The Dispute Reconciliation Committee issued interim guidelines in August 2011.” For more information about the Dispute Reconciliation Committee and its subsidiary the Dispute Resolution Center, see here.
For the economic impact that TEPCO brought to Namie through the nuclear plants and how that was linked to the creation of nuclear “safety myth,” see my interview with Suzuki.
Posted by Waninahi at 6:48 PM