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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:40

August 1, 2015

EDITORIAL: Trials of ex-TEPCO bigwigs a chance to take fresh look at disaster


Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. will stand trial over their criminal responsibility for the 2011 disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

For the second time, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution has rejected an earlier decision by prosecutors not to indict the three, setting the stage for the forced prosecution of these three individuals.

They will be accused of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of people who were in hospitals when the disaster happened and other tragedies.

A report issued by the Diet’s Fukushima nuclear accident investigation committee states, “It is clear that the accident was a man-made disaster.”

But no government officials or TEPCO employees have been punished, either politically or administratively. In other words, no one has been held accountable for the nation's worst nuclear accident.

Many Japanese citizens still feel that justice has not been meted out with regard to that harrowing disaster. Many are also concerned that a similar accident may occur again if nobody is held responsible for what happened in 2011.

A second decision by the independent judicial panel of citizens to demand the criminal prosecution of the three former TEPCO executives should be viewed as indicative of the disturbing and disquieting feelings among many citizens.

The system of forced indictment through the judgment of citizens was introduced in 2009, along with the “saiban-in” citizen judge system. Until that time, public prosecutors monopolized the power to decide whether to indict a suspect. The new system is intended to ensure that public opinion is reflected in the process of criminal prosecution, at least to a certain degree.

In reversing public prosecutors’ decision not to indict the suspects on grounds that there is no compelling case for holding them liable for negligence, the panel of citizens made a grave decision to force trials of the three individuals.

The court should, of course, consider carefully and fairly whether the former TEPCO executives should be held liable for the misfortunes of disaster victims from the viewpoint of evidence submitted.

At the same time, one question that needs to be asked is how TEPCO implemented measures to protect the nuclear plant from a possible tsunami and ensure the plant’s safety.

Collectively, the trials will offer a great opportunity to take a fresh look into the accident from a perspective that is different from those of the investigation committees set up by the government and the Diet.

There have not been many opportunities for people to talk about the disaster in public. But the three former TEPCO executives will probably be given opportunities to speak in the courtroom. The court can also order submission of specific pieces of evidence.

Future public debate on issues concerning nuclear power generation will benefit greatly if the trials uncover unknown facts in the process, such as chronological changes in the utility’s decisions concerning safety measures for its nuclear power plants and the ways the government and other public organizations influenced the company’s policy.

The nation’s judiciary has a long history of handing down rulings related to nuclear power generation. But in most of the past cases concerning the construction and operations of nuclear power plants, the courts ruled against opposing local residents.

The question is whether all these court rulings in favor of nuclear power were influenced in any way by the perception that there is no way to stop the expansion of electricity production with atomic energy based on the government’s energy policy.

The judiciary’s attitude to nuclear power generation has also been called into question by the accident.

In considering the criminal liabilities related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which has caused an unprecedented scale of damage, are the traditional criteria, like “specific predictability,” sufficiently effective?

The trials should prompt the judicial community to have more in-depth debate on this question.

We strongly hope the trials will be conducted in a way that lives up to people’s confidence in the judicial system.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 1



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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:38

July 31, 2015


3 former TEPCO executives face criminal trial over Fukushima crisis



Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. will stand trial over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster after an independent judicial panel of citizens on July 31 again decided that mandatory indictments are warranted.

It will be the first time for TEPCO or government officials to stand formally accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury in the nuclear crisis that was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution for the second time rejected prosecutors’ decision not to indict the three--former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro.

Based on the committee’s decision, three court-appointed lawyers will indict the three and serve as prosecutors in the trial.

After the crisis unfolded at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, residents and citizens groups filed criminal complaints with prosecutors against senior TEPCO and government officials.

They argued that the three TEPCO executives failed to fulfill their responsibility to implement necessary safety measures at the plant before the disaster, leading to the deaths of hospital patients during the evacuation and other tragedies.

In September 2013, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office decided not to indict the three former TEPCO executives.

The inquest committee handed down its first decision in July 2014, calling for indictments, but the prosecutors office again said there was not enough evidence to charge the three.

That led to the committee’s second examination of the case.

A decision for mandatory indictment requires approval from at least eight members of the 11-member committee.

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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:36

July 31, 2015

Utility hopes to reactivate reactor on August 10th

Jul. 31, 2015 - Updated 12:08 UTC+2

A nuclear power plant operator in southern Japan hopes to restart one of its reactors next month. It would be the first to operate under new regulations introduced after the Fukushima accident.

Kyushu Electric Power Company told the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Friday that it plans to reactivate the Number One reactor of the Sendai plant on August 10th at the earliest.

The company will carry out final checks on the reactor to make sure the containment vessel has no leaks and cooling equipment functions properly. Officials will also check procedures for reactivating the reactor.

The 2-reactor plant in Kagoshima Prefecture last year became the first nuclear power plant to meet the new regulations.

Kyushu Electric loaded fuel into the reactor earlier this month. Officials held an emergency drill this week, employing the scenario that a cooling system malfunction causes nuclear fuel to start melting down.

The government newly added this drill to a list of tests required to restart nuclear power plants.

The utility says when the reactor is once again operational, it will sustain a nuclear chain reaction in about 15 hours and start generating power in 3 days' time.

If everything goes as planned, the Sendai plant will become the first nuclear facility in the country to resume operations in almost 2 years.

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Published by fukushima-is-still-news - dans Start again
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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:31
Radiation exposure limit more than doubled for workers in emergencies


July 31, 2015

Nuclear watchdog proposes raising maximum radiation dose to 250 millisieverts


By HIROMI KUMAI/ Staff Writer

Nuclear plant workers in Japan will be allowed to be exposed to more than twice the current level of radiation in emergency situations, according to the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s Radiation Council.

The radiation exposure limit will be raised from the current 100 millisieverts to 250 millisieverts in emergencies, the radiation council announced in a report released July 30.

The higher level is still only half of the accepted international safety level of 500 millisieverts set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, an influential independent organization that provides guidelines on radiation protection, for rescue workers in emergency situations at nuclear facilities.

The new cap will be activated from April 2016 after revisions to the nuclear reactor regulatory law and the Industrial Safety and Health Law.

The limit was temporarily raised to 250 millisieverts by the radiation council following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The decision was quickly made by the council members through e-mail discussions as the 100 millisieverts limit could have caused a shortage of workers tackling the emergency at the plant. Later, the limit was returned to 100 millisieverts.

Under the revised law, the exposure limit for plant workers will be immediately raised to 250 millisieverts when certain conditions arise, including the risk of radioactive materials leaking from the facility into the surrounding area.

The workers affected will include employees of utility companies and their contractors, inspection officers from the Secretariat of the NRA and other on-field workers.

Of the 174 workers who were exposed to radiation doses more than 100 millisieverts following the Fukushima accident, six were exposed to 250 millisieverts or more.

The radiation council decided that workers are protected if they wear masks and other gear even when exposed to 250 millisieverts. The health damage from acute radiation poisoning below that limit is negligible, it said.

The council’s report calls for nuclear plant operators to carefully explain to workers tackling emergency situations about their tasks and obtain their consent to work in such an environment.

It also requests utility companies to conduct proper training of workers, while one of the council members also called on them to conduct follow-up medical checks to detect cancer and other illnesses.

The report also acknowledges that nuclear plant workers could be required to engage in tasks that cause them to be exposed to more than 250 millisieverts in acute emergency situations.

At Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, which the company aims to restart in August, workers will carry out their tasks with an exposure limit of 100 millisieverts until the maximum limit is raised to 250 millisieverts.

A plant worker who has worked at nuclear facilities for 20 years said he suspects that workers from subcontractors will agree to work under the raised limit.

“The cancer checkups and other measures also sound to me as stopgap efforts to ease our anxiety,” he said.


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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:29

July 31, 2015

In major nuclear disasters, mental health the No. 1 casualty, studies find


LONDON – People caught up in a nuclear disaster are more likely to suffer severe psychological disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder rather than harm from radiation, scientists said Friday.

Factors such as having to evacuate their home or simple fear itself contribute to the trauma, the scientists said in studies published in The Lancet to mark the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The studies counter the misconception that nuclear disasters have caused widespread death and physical illness, with the researchers finding that the mental health effects were far more profound.

“In most nuclear accidents very few people are exposed to a life-threatening dose of radiation,” wrote Akira Ohtsuru of Fukushima Medical University.

Nuclear accidents are rare but five that were rated as “severe” have occurred during the past 60 years — Russia’s Kyshtym in 1957, Windscale in Britain in 1957, Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011.

Koichi Tanigawa of Fukushima Medical University, who led one of the studies, said the psychological burden for people living in affected regions is often overlooked.

In 2006, the U.N. Chernobyl Forum report found that accident’s most serious public health issue was its damage to mental health, an effect made worse by poor communication about the health risks of reported radiation levels.

Even now, 20 years after the accident, rates of depression and PTSD remain higher than normal, the researchers said.

Similar problems were seen after Fukushima, with the proportion of adults with psychological distress almost five times higher among disaster evacuees — at 14.6 percent compared with just 3 percent in the general population.

“Although the radiation dose to the public from Fukushima was relatively low, and no discernible physical health effects are expected, psychological and social problems, largely stemming from the differences in risk perceptions, have had a devastating impact on people’s lives,” Tanigawa said.

Some 170,000 residents were evacuated from a 30-km radius of the Fukushima plant, the researchers said.

At least a third of the world’s 437 nuclear power plants have even more people living within that distance — 21 have more than 1 million people nearby, and six have more than 3 million.

Radiological health experts said analyzing such events gives vital information on how best to protect those living near nuclear power plants.

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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:26

July 30, 2015

Survey: 61% of 2nd-generation hibakusha feel anxiety over parents' radiation exposure

2nd generation hibahusha still worried about health

By AZUSA ITO/ Staff Writer

More than 60 percent of second-generation hibakusha still feel anxiety over their parents’ exposure to radiation from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago, a survey showed.

The Tokyo Federation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations released its study report on July 29, the first in Japan covering children of those exposed to the 1945 nuclear attacks.

The group sent questionnaires to 2,391 residents of the capital who are children of atomic bomb survivors in Nagasaki or Hiroshima. It received 660 responses.

Analysis of the data by Yoshihiro Yagi, a sociology researcher at Ehime University, revealed that 61 percent of second-generation hibakusha feel anxiety about problems and issues related to their parents’ exposure to atomic bomb radiation.

About 20 percent of the respondents said they suspect that any health problems they may suffer could be associated with the 1945 atomic bombings.

According to the results, around 20 percent are worried about diseases related to radiation, while another 20 percent are also concerned that the effects of radiation exposure could appear in their children and grandchildren.

“It is difficult for people to find effective ways to address problems if their causes are unclear,” Yagi said. “The central government needs to carefully examine the mental conditions of second-generation hibakusha and provide some care.”

The survey also asked the children of hibakusha to specify their health problems.

The results showed the largest group, or 12.3 percent of the respondents, cited blood-pressure problems, while 6.5 percent have developed cancer or leukemia, and 6.2 percent have diabetes.

Sixty percent said they do not know if their conditions are related to the U.S. atomic bombs dropped 70 years ago.

But 20 percent said they believe their health problems are a result of their parents’ exposure to radiation because they could find no other reason why they develop those conditions. They also said they feel more vulnerable to diseases compared with those around them.

Toyoko Tasaki, 47, who heads a group of second-generation hibakusha in Tokyo, said her mother was exposed to radiation in Hiroshima in 1945.

“Many second-generation victims cannot talk about their anxieties in fear of prejudice,” Tasaki said. “The latest findings could be a good way to represent the silent voices of those people.



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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:24

July 31, 2015

Volcano advisory group for nuclear plants planned


Jul. 31, 2015 - Updated 12:08 UTC+2

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority plans to establish an advisory group on volcanos near nuclear plants.

The regulator has called on power companies to take measures in case of signs of a huge eruption at such a volcano.

Participants at a meeting on Friday agreed that the NRA will set up the group as early as September. It would offer advice on coming up with criteria for such signs and judging whether observational data involve them.

The group is to include volcano experts and officials from related government agencies.

The Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, is expected to go back online in August. It could be the first plant to do so under regulations established after the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

The agency says the possibility of a huge eruption near the plant during its operating life is sufficiently small. But it asked the operator of the plant to stop its reactors and move its nuclear fuel if data show signs of a huge eruption.

Volcano experts, however, say such signs may not be detectable.

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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:23

July 31, 2015

Large-scale disaster drills held at Kyushu nuclear plant ahead of planned reactivation

KAGOSHIMA -- Kyushu Electric Power Co. carried out large-scale disaster drills at its Sendai Nuclear Power Plant's No. 1 reactor on July 30, as it moves toward a planned restart of the reactor in August.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA)'s secretariat had planned to make the utility repeat the drills if there were any large problems with them, but says it received no reports of any glitches. The secretariat had 15 inspectors watching over the drills. July 30 also saw the completion of all of the NRA's pre-use inspections of the reactor, which started in March this year.

The drills began on July 27, and were conducted under a scenario that the reactor had lost all its power supplies and was going to suffer a meltdown. Fifty-two people participated in the drills, over around 26 hours spread across the four days. On the last day, workers practiced the procedure for sending cooling water into the air conditioning system of the reactor's containment vessel to decrease pressure in the vessel.

Sendai Nuclear Power Plant passed the NRA's safety inspection in September 2014, and by November that year it had gained local agreement to restart the reactor.

Starting Aug. 4, Kyushu Electric will spend around five days raising the pressure and temperature of the reactor as it performs final checks in preparation for a restart. Kyushu Electric plans to restart the reactor on Aug. 10, and begin producing and sending electricity from it on Aug. 13. It intends to resume commercial operations with the reactor in mid-September.

The reactor would become the first operational nuclear reactor in Japan since the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture were active from July 2012 to September 2013. The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant reactor is set to become the first nuclear reactor restarting under new, strengthened safety procedures incorporating lessons from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster.

Click here for Japanese article

July 31, 2015 (Mainichi Japan)

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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:22

August 1, 2015


Fukushima high school evacuee to share experiences at United Nations



IWAKI, Fukushima Prefecture--A high school student who thought she was only temporarily fleeing her home during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and remains an evacuee to this day, will address an event at the United Nations headquarters this month.

Ayumi Kikuchi, 16, a former resident of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, located near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that suffered a triple meltdown, was asked by school officials to give the speech in New York City.

A nonprofit organization that deals with the issues of human rights, health and the environment contacted the prefectural Futaba High School, which now operates out of the nearby city of Iwaki. It invited a student from the prefecture to come and share their experiences of having lived through those trying events and the aftermath.

"At that time, I was a sixth-grader in my elementary school, and we were going to graduate in a few days," Kikuchi says in her speech. "My home was 4 kilometers from the plant. At that time, I didn't understand why we had to leave our home, and I thought we could come back home soon."

However, she has been forced to live in various shelters over the years, including the Saitama Super Arena and one set up at the former Kisai High School in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture.

"I wondered what's going to happen to us (at the time)," she said. She remembered watching the events unfold on the news.

"I went back to my home only once after the accident," she wrote. "There were many houses left collapsed and roads still had cracks. Nothing seemed to have changed since the disaster. However, the inside of my house was totally different from what I remembered because of animal excreta and rain leaking in."

The high school student said she hopes to one day work for the local government to help restore her town to what it once was.

Her school, which has a history of more than 90 years, will close after her class graduates. Four other relocated high schools are also scheduled to close.

"Many graduates are feeling very sorry and regretting that their old school is forced to close even though the school or the students have done nothing wrong themselves," Kikuchi says in her speech.

In her message, Kikuchi will call on people to help one another in times of disaster. She also plans to ask people to share and pass on the memories that result from such devastating events.

"I want people to know about Fukushima's situation accurately," she wrote. "People in other countries may think that Fukushima is uninhabitable and may wonder why people don't flee from Fukushima. In fact, however, it is not the entire area of Fukushima Prefecture, but only some regions that people cannot live in. Most of Fukushima is safe to live in. Also, various movements toward reconstruction have been made, and there is a lot of good news about Fukushima too."

Fumi Arimura, an English teacher at Kikuchi’s school, helped her write her 10-minute speech. Kikuchi leaves for the United States on Aug. 2.



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1 août 2015 6 01 /08 /août /2015 17:20

 July 31, 2015

Residents hail indictment decision


Jul. 31, 2015 - Updated 09:36 UTC+2

The leader of the residents, Ruiko Muto, has praised the panel's decision.

Muto said she believes a court will determine who was responsible for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and give a fair judgment.

She said that 110,000 people are still unable to return to their homes. She added that having the former executives face a criminal trial will help prevent a recurrence and create a society in which people can live in peace.

The residents' lawyer, Hiroyuki Kawai, also said that if the former officials had escaped indictment, the real cause of the accident would have been covered up forever.
He expressed hope that the trial will find out more about what caused the nuclear accident.

TEPCO declined to comment on the decision or the criminal complaint that led to it.

But it said in a statement that it wants to renew its heartfelt apology to the people of Fukushima and many others for causing trouble and concern.

The firm said it will do its utmost for compensation, plant decommissioning and decontamination, based on the principle of seeking reconstruction of Fukushima. It added that it is fully resolved to improving the safety of nuclear power plants.


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