1 novembre 2014 6 01 /11 /novembre /2014 17:39

November 1, 2014

NRA rebuts claim that Fukushima cleanup affected faraway rice paddies



Japan's nuclear watchdog disputed the farm ministry's assertion that radioactive substances churned up by debris removal work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant contaminated distant rice paddies last year.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority announced at a commissioners' meeting Oct. 31 its estimate that 110 billion becquerels of radioactive materials spread as a result of cleanup at the No. 3 reactor building on Aug. 19, 2013.

This figure is lower than the 130 billion to 260 billion becquerels estimated by the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., in August.

Radiation readings rose significantly during debris removal that day, with radioactive substances found to have contaminated plant workers about 500 meters from the reactor building.

However, NRA Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa emphasized, "The affected area of the fallout was within the nuclear plant compound."

"While it is difficult to simulate the spread of radioactive substances (outside the plant), it is unlikely that the debris cleanup caused the contamination (of the rice paddies)," Fuketa said.

The nuclear facility was ravaged by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami, triggering a triple meltdown.

The NRA arrived at the figure of 110 billion becquerels by analyzing radiation levels recorded at monitoring posts north-northwest of the plant on the day in question.

Radioactive fallout on this scale constitutes a Level 0 incident on the International Atomic Energy Agency's International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.

Earlier, the farm ministry pointed to the possibility that radiation from the plant had spread to rice paddies in Minami-Soma more than 20 kilometers away, and called on TEPCO to take preventive measures in its debris removal work.

During the NRA meeting, some experts noted that despite the NRA's estimate, it is unlikely that factors other than debris cleanup at the plant could have caused such high levels of radioactive fallout at the rice farms.

“From a broader perspective, the Fukushima No. 1 plant is responsible for the contamination," one participant said.

October 31, 2014

NRA: Fukushima debris didn't taint rice paddies


Oct. 31, 2014 - Updated 11:27 UTC+1

A member of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority says it's highly unlikely that radioactive particles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant contaminated rice fields some 20 kilometers away.

Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa spoke at the authority's meeting on Friday. Radioactive substances were found in the paddies after workers removed debris from the plant's Number 3 reactor building in August last year.

The authority said the removal work released dust particles with 110 billion becquerels of radiation.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, said the particles had relatively large diameters of several micrometers.

Fuketa indicated that given the level of radiation, the particles had an environmental impact only in the plant compound. He suggested that the contamination may have come from river and ground water.

The authority is considering whether to make projections on how far radioactive particles will spread during debris removal and how they will affect rice fi

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29 octobre 2014 3 29 /10 /octobre /2014 09:58

 October 29, 2014

Radioactive soil stored at Fukushima schools not covered by recent disposal law, has nowhere to go


FUKUSHIMA – Radioactive soil currently stored at schools in Fukushima Prefecture is not supposed to be transferred to radioactive waste storage facilities planned to be built near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Jiji Press learned Tuesday.

because decontamination at schools was carried out before a special law on radioactive contamination took effect in January 2012 and thus the Environment Ministry deems tainted soil collected during the work not covered by the law. The central government undertakes or funds decontamination work.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government is arguing that such discrimination is pointless and has repeatedly called on the ministry to create a system that will allow soil contaminated with fallout from the March 2011 nuclear calamity at the power plant to be shipped from schools to the planned interim storage facilities.

“We want the state government to prepare an environment where children can study safely,” a senior Fukushima municipal official said.

But the ministry has not given a clear response. This reluctance may be partly due to concerns over the cost of shipping soil to the facilities to store tainted soil before being finally disposed of at other locations. The cost is to be borne eventually by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co.

A senior ministry official said it may be unfair to discriminate between radioactive soil collected before and after the law’s effectuation.

In August, the Fukushima Prefectural Government decided to accept the construction of the temporary storage facilities around the nuclear plant.

Hoping to begin radioactive waste shipments to the facilities in January, the central government is working to win the consent of landowners on the construction.


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28 octobre 2014 2 28 /10 /octobre /2014 09:54

October 28, 2014

TEPCO guidelines say evacuees entering college not eligible for compensation


Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has set in-house standards for compensation that require evacuees who have moved out of evacuation zones to attend university or college to repay some of the compensation they have already received, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

A TEPCO document obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun says that if a tenant agreement between an evacuee and a landlord had been signed before the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, it is considered that the decision to move was made before the disaster, and that their evacuation was over after they moved into the new place. TEPCO is believed to use the guidelines when interviewing evacuees about requests for compensation.

According to the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education and other concerned parties, however, there are no universities or two-year colleges in areas that have been designated as evacuation zones, where residents are entitled to 100,000 yen in compensation monthly for their mental distress. It means that under the TEPCO standard, all evacuees who moved out of evacuation zones to enter university or college, regardless of the location of the institutions, will be subject to TEPCO's demand for repayment.

While TEPCO has not disclosed how many people are subject to such a rule, the prefectural education board said there were some 1,000 students in off-limits zones who graduated from high school in the spring of 2011.

A 21-year-old woman from a difficult-to-return zone, who is being urged to return some 9 million yen to TEPCO, was accepted into a three-year nursing college in the Kanto region in December 2010. She signed a rental contract for an apartment near the school in January 2011 and moved there in the beginning of April. In June this year, TEPCO requested the woman's family to send a copy of the rental contract to TEPCO's head office in Tokyo, and sent back a note in September with the amount of repayment the woman needs to pay, claiming that she ended her evacuation when she moved into the apartment.

A representative of TEPCO's head office for Fukushima restoration told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We make decisions on compensation after checking individual circumstances," but added that the company cannot release payment guidelines.

Attorney Naoto Sasayama, who takes part in nuclear disaster compensation claims, said, "As disaster compensation is funded by the government, operation transparency and fair payment guidelines are indispensable. If TEPCO demands evacuees repay some of the compensation, the company needs to disclose the payment standards."

October 28, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

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27 octobre 2014 1 27 /10 /octobre /2014 17:53

October 27, 2014

Fukushima elects new governor in first election since 2011 disasters



FUKUSHIMA – Former Fukushima Vice Gov. Masao Uchibori was elected governor in a landslide Sunday in the prefecture’s first gubernatorial campaign since the 2011 natural and nuclear disasters.

Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami as well as nuclear policy were the main issues in the election involving around 1.6 million voters, but there was a lack of in-depth discussion as both ruling and opposition parties threw their support behind the 50-year-old Uchibori.

Asked Monday morning about priorities once he takes office, Uchibori said: “I want to rebuild the worst-hit parts of the evacuation zone, and then rebuild all of Fukushima (Prefecture). I’m reminding myself anew of the heavy responsibility. We must do whatever it takes to reconstruct Fukushima.”

Uchibori has declined to comment on whether he believes reactors around the rest of the country should be reactivated. Therefore the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to face no challenge from him as it continues procedures to restart idled nuclear plants.

Furthermore, the ruling coalition of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito managed to stave off defeat — which it suffered in the Shiga gubernatorial race in July.

The focus now shifts to the governor race next month in Okinawa, where issues related to U.S. military bases are likely to dominate.

Uchibori got 490,384 votes, while runner-up Yoshihiro Kumasaka received 129,455.

Kumasaka, 62, a former mayor of Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, had the backing of the Japanese Communist Party and Shinto Kaikaku (New Renaissance Party).

Fewer than 30,000 votes went to four other candidates.

Voter turnout was 45.85 percent, up 3.43 point from the previous election but the second lowest on record.

Uchibori ran nominally as an independent but was supported by the local chapters of the LDP and Komeito as well as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party.

“I will put my heart and soul into the reconstruction of Fukushima,” said Uchibori, who will succeed outgoing Gov. Yuhei Sato. “I will first put my efforts into reconstructing evacuated areas and revitalizing the prefecture.”

Sato, who served two four-year terms, said he wants his successor to be “someone who can carry out my will and continue reconstruction work, and who knows the prefecture very well.”

During the campaign, Uchibori pledged to “make utmost efforts to bring recovery to Fukushima as early as possible.” He underscored his readiness to serve as governor after having supported Sato as vice governor from 2006.

Uchibori resigned from the vice governorship last month to run in the election.

Although the number of candidates was a record high for the prefecture, all of them agreed that reactors in the prefecture should be decommissioned and pledged to reconstruct the region devastated by the March 2011 disasters.

While the other contenders opposed reactivating nuclear reactors in other parts of Japan, Uchibori refrained from expressing a view on the matter, apparently in deference to the central government.

The prefecture has already demanded that the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. decommission the four reactors at the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant in addition to the six at crippled Fukushima No. 1.

The other contenders were Katsutaka Idogawa, a 68-year-old former mayor of the town of Futaba, which hosts the Fukushima No. 1 plant, Yoshitaka Ikarashi, a 36-year-old pastor, Akiko Iseki, 59, a convenience store manager, and Yoshinao Kaneko, 58, president of a construction company.

Former vice governor takes Fukushima gubernatorial election in landslide


October 27, 2014


Backed by four parties in both the ruling and opposition camps, former Fukushima Vice Governor Masao Uchibori was elected governor on Oct. 26 in a campaign where the future of the nation's nuclear policy was placed on the back burner.

It was Fukushima Prefecture’s first gubernatorial election since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Uchibori was elected in a landslide victory over five other independent newcomers. He garnered 490,384 votes, more than three times as many as the runner-up.

With voter turnout at 45.85 percent, it was the second lowest turnout on record after the last gubernatorial election, where only 42.42 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls.

There was little difference in the platforms of the six candidates, all of whom called for decommissioning all nuclear power plants in the prefecture. Other issues, such as the rebuilding of residents’ lives and communities, failed to motivate voters as well.

Touting himself as the successor to Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato, Uchibori, 50, the outgoing governor’s deputy for eight years, campaigned on a platform of succeeding and further promoting his policies.

As a result, the stay-the-course approach earned Uchibori broad support from not only supporters of major political parties but also local municipal leaders and industry organizations.

Backing Uchibori were the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party.

The Abe administration, which hopes to restart many of the nuclear reactors across Japan that were taken offline in the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis, backed Uchibori, who was supported by the opposition parties. The administration did so in order to prevent the issue on whether to phase out nuclear power from becoming a key point of contention.

Uchibori’s opponents included Yoshihiro Kumasaka, 62, a doctor who was supported by the Japanese Communist Party and the New Renaissance Party. He campaigned on abandoning nuclear power in and outside the prefecture. Also opposing Uchibori was Katsutaka Idogawa, 68, the former mayor of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture. Neither were able to garner wide support.

The world’s attention is now on the new governor who has a mountain of issues to tackle related to the nuclear disaster in order to pave the way for the prefecture’s recovery.

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27 octobre 2014 1 27 /10 /octobre /2014 09:56

October 27, 2014

Chiba governor asks Taiwan to lift import ban


Oct. 27, 2014 - Updated 10:17 UTC+1

A governor from eastern Japan has called on Taiwan to lift its ban on imports of food and agricultural products from his prefecture. The ban was imposed in the aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Chiba Governor Kensaku Morita made the request to the head of Taiwan's liaison commission with Japan, Lee Chia-chin, in Taipei on Monday.

Fukushima and Chiba are among the 5 prefectures with food and agricultural products facing a blanket ban in Taiwan.

Morita told Lee that products from Chiba are being screened for radioactive materials before shipment in line with state government standards.

He requested that Taiwanese inspectors be dispatched to Chiba to see their inspection process.

Lee responded by saying he will pass on the request to relevant government offices. He said the government will immediately lift the ban should authorities give their consent.

He also said the issue will be taken up during a trade meeting between Japan and Taiwan, slated for November.

He added that a dispatch of Taiwanese inspectors will be the most convincing step to take.


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24 octobre 2014 5 24 /10 /octobre /2014 20:19

Nuclear watch : Fishing in Fukushima


Fishermen in Fukushima are feeling the effects of the process of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. They've been forced to change the way they work. And there are still restrictions on what they can catch. In this edition of "Nuclear Watch," NHK WORLD's Daisuke Kamikubo looks at how fishermen are trying to rebuild their industry.

The port of Onahama in Iwaki City is 50 kilometers south of the Fukushima plant. Fish are brought to the port four times a week. Fishermen call it test fishing.

Right after the fish arrive, they're screened for radioactive cesium. At least one per species is tested from each section of the fishing grounds.

"We have a rocky road ahead. But we will display the spirit of fishermen."

Fish that are confirmed safe can be shipped to consumers throughout Japan. Following the disaster, government officials established the world's strictest standards for radiation exposure for fish.

A new limit on cesium - 100 becquerels / kg - was established.

Right after the accident, 53% of fish caught in Fukushima were above the government ceiling. The number has gradually declined to 0.6%.

Fishing in Fukushima

The Fukushima fisheries federation set an even stricter limit - 50 becquerels / kg.

All fishing in the area was halted after the accident. 15 months later, fishing for just 3 species resumed, 50 kilometers out to sea north of Fukushima.
The area has been gradually expanded. Now, fishing is allowed in almost all waters except those very close to the plant. Fishermen now catch 52 species, about one-fourth of what they could before the accident.

Fishing in Fukushima

"We just have to go step by step. We have to go beyond making loud claims about the safety of fish from Fukushima. We should continue testing fish and prove they're safe, so consumers will eat them."
Tetsu Nozaki / Chairman, Fukushima fisheries federation

But fishermen have yet to resume full-scale operations. They're not allowed to catch some species including flounder, which was the main source of revenue for Fukushima fishermen. The total volume of the catch is still 1.5 percent of what it was before the disaster. Fishermen say test fishing is necessary to rebuild the industry.

"Fishermen want to be fully back in business. But they face yet another hardship...a planned release of contaminated water from Fukushima Daiichi. Plant operator TEPCO says there is no problem as radioactive substances have been removed from that water. But fishermen are not so sure."
Daisuke Kamikubo / Onahama, Fukushima

In August, TEPCO officials said they might discharge groundwater that had accumulated in wells dug around the plant's reactor buildings. They say the groundwater is contaminated, but will be processed before it's released into the sea.

And over 500,000 tons of radioactive water is stored in tanks. The operator says it will continue storing the water there. Local fishermen say they will never allow TEPCO to discharge the water into the sea.

But they say they are not opposed to all of TEPCO's plans.

Fishing in Fukushima

" We fishermen need to work hand in hand on decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi. We can't run away from the accident. If we wish to catch fish off Fukushima and sell them, we need consumers to know the fish are safe to eat."
Tetsu Nozaki / Chairman, Fukushima fisheries federation

TEPCO executives say the decommissioning will take up to 40 years. Fishermen are closely watching how the work proceeds.

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23 octobre 2014 4 23 /10 /octobre /2014 20:18

October 23, 2014

Woman urged to repay nuke disaster compensation after she enters college outside Fukushima


Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has demanded that a 21-year-old woman repay roughly 9 million yen of the 16 million yen in compensation she received over the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which left her family home in an off-limits zone, it has been learned.

TEPCO is demanding the woman return the amount she received after she entered a college outside Fukushima Prefecture and changed her residential address. The woman has resisted the demand.

"I have no prospects of being able to return home, and my psychological pain continues," she said.

TEPCO has not released concrete guidelines for compensation. It is feared that the finances of other nuclear evacuees could be thrown into disarray if TEPCO were to suddenly demand that they repay large amounts of compensation they have already received.

Under interim guidelines from the Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation, a body operating under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, people who are forced to evacuate from their homes for long periods are eligible for compensation for mental suffering. TEPCO makes decisions on compensation based on the requests it receives.

The case of the 21-year-old woman marks the first time that TEPCO has demanded repayment of compensation from someone other than its own employees. Roughly 80,000 people are eligible for compensation for mental suffering, and it is possible the company's move could affect other evacuees who change their addresses when entering academic institutions, getting married or job transfers. The company is therefore likely to face calls to clarify its guidelines for compensation.

The family of the 21-year-old woman, who agreed to speak to the Mainichi Shimbun, said that in December 2010, when she was a third-year student at a high school in the Futaba district of Fukushima Prefecture, she was accepted into a three-year nursing college in the Kanto region. After the outbreak of the nuclear disaster in March 2011, her family evacuated from one place to another within the prefecture. In early April that year, she started living by herself in an apartment near the college. She graduated this spring and started working at a hospital in the Kanto region.

When her family visited a TEPCO counter to discuss compensation in June this year, they explained how she had entered the college. Then in early September, a bill from TEPCO arrived. It stated that the amount she had received differed from what she was supposed to have been paid. TEPCO said that she had decided to enter the college before the nuclear accident, and that her period of evacuation ended when she changed her address to attend college.

Specifically, TEPCO demanded that the woman repay the 7.3 million yen she had received for mental suffering (covering six years and one month worth of payments at 100,000 yen per month), in addition to 480,000 yen in compensation for her evacuation from the no-go zone, and about 1.28 million yen in compensation for household effects.

The woman had sought compensation from TEPCO for household effects because she had purchased new items, not having taken anything from her home after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster. However, TEPCO asked her to repay the amount on the grounds that she had purchased the items in line with her entry into college.

The woman's family remains unhappy with TEPCO's demand.

"People from the zones where return has been deemed difficult are unable to return to their homes for a long time. She did enter college, she hasn't become financially independent, and her life as an evacuee hasn't finished. TEPCO hasn't publicly released its payment guidelines, and we can't agree with its decision," a family member said.

A representative of TEPCO's head office for Fukushima restoration told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We can't comment on individual cases, but decisions are not made on academic advancement alone. We will continue with compensation in the future while checking individual circumstances."

According to the Fukushima Prefecture Board of Education, roughly 1,000 high school students from evacuation zones graduated in the spring of 2011, as the woman did. If it turns out they decided to change their address to areas outside evacuation zones before the outbreak of the nuclear disaster, then they could face demands from the company to return their payments.

The education ministry's office on measures for compensation for nuclear damage takes the view that in general terms, if a person can't return home, then their period of evacuation does not end simply because of academic advancement. However, the nuclear damage response office within the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, has seen this as a borderline situation in determining whether or not compensation should be paid.

Earlier, when several TEPCO employees changed their address to locations outside the zones that were off-limits, the company judged that their period of evacuation had ended, and demanded that they repay compensation for mental anguish. The bill that one employee faced was in the range of millions of yen.

There have been other cases in which TEPCO has cut off compensation payments. When a woman in her 30s married a man outside the evacuation zone in October 2011, TEPCO judged that the woman's livelihood had been established, and cut off her payments for mental suffering. The woman argued that her mental suffering had not ended, and filed for mediation through the central government's Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center. The Agency for Natural Resources and Energy informed TEPCO that it was not right to cut off compensation using marriage as a reason, and payments subsequently resumed.

October 23, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

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22 octobre 2014 3 22 /10 /octobre /2014 18:04

October 22, 2014

Evacuees call on TEPCO to accept settlement plans


Oct. 22, 2014 - Updated 10:57 UTC+2

Evacuees from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident have urged the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant to swiftly accept a state arbitration body's compensation proposals.

About 50 people, including evacuees who have filed for arbitration, gathered at a Diet building in Tokyo on Wednesday to press their requests.

The Center for Settlement of Fukushima Nuclear Damage Claims made proposals this year to settle claims filed by groups of residents of Namie Town and Iitate Village, both in Fukushima Prefecture.

But Tokyo Electric Power Company has rejected the proposals, saying blanket compensation without consideration for individual circumstances would not ensure equality.

Participants said they want a quick settlement as they have been forced to live away from their communities or family members for more than 3 years in the wake of the disaster.

A 67-year-old resident from Namie said evacuees suffered a variety of losses. He said compensation for their mental damage is far from sufficient and that the firm should honor the evacuees' claims.

Their lawyers said they will ask the government for a legal revision to oblige the utility to accept the arbitration center's proposals.

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21 octobre 2014 2 21 /10 /octobre /2014 19:42

October 21, 2014

Nautical charts to be revised to reflect unprecedented changes caused by tsunami


By YURI IMAMURA/ Staff Writer

ONAGAWA, Miyagi Prefecture--About an hour into a Japan Coast Guard hydrographic survey mission, a crew member on lookout abruptly shouted for the dinghy to stop.

The starboard was about to touch a 200-meter-long rope floating about 1 meter beneath the sea surface near Onagawa Port, Miyagi Prefecture.

The rope was being used for an underwater operation to tie a work vessel to a buoy. The previous day, the crew discovered about 10 caissons, the gigantic concrete boxes that constitute the foundations of a breakwater, in the area.

The boxes, measuring 20 meters per side and each weighing several thousand tons, were dumped there by the tsunami three and a half years ago.

“Even those hefty caissons were swept up by the tsunami,” said Tsuyoshi Takaesu, the chief hydrographic surveyor of the main Tenyo survey vessel. “You will never know what you will encounter.”

The Japan Coast Guard continues to survey waters off the tsunami-affected Tohoku coast to revise nautical charts that take into account disaster-related rubble on the seabed, drifting objects and changing water depths that could pose a threat to safe navigation.

The mission primarily covers 24 ports and surrounding waters along the Pacific coast extending from Aomori Prefecture to Ibaraki Prefecture and is scheduled to be completed by the end of fiscal 2015.

The 2011 disaster caused changes to the seafloor on an unprecedented scale, Coast Guard officials said. And the mission so far has been full of surprises and potential dangers.

“A big mess would follow if (the rope) were to be caught in the dinghy’s propeller,” Takaesu said in a strained voice about the rope.

The dinghy’s crew approached carefully and used a pole to get the rope out of the way.

The compact dinghy, which is only 2 meters wide and 10 meters long, was deployed from the 430-ton Tenyo survey vessel on Sept. 17 to survey the shallow interior of the port.

The Tenyo, with a crew of 23 and Koichi Nishimura as captain, was surveying all parts of the harbor off the town of Onagawa for the first time in 32 years.

Takaesu, 50, has served in the post since immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake triggered the tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The tsunami changed water depths significantly in nautical charts in at least one location for every harbor, according to officials of the Second Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, which oversees the coasts of the six Tohoku prefectures.

Nautical charts show water depths, coastal topography, locations of shoals and lighthouses, ocean flows and tide currents to ensure safe navigation of seafaring vessels and port use.

The new nautical charts will be used to set limits on the size of vessels and their cargo to ensure that seabed objects will not hit the ship bottoms.

Takaesu recalled the time he was in Kamaishi Port in Iwate Prefecture in May, when he came across a spot with a depth of only 1 to 2 meters, despite surrounding depths of 36 meters. When he hastily brought out measurement equipment, he saw something in the water that looked like Tokyo Tower.

“What’s this?” he thought, and returned to the same spot. He realized the object was a mess of entangled fishing nets.

“It gave me a shudder to realize that an object like that was still moving along,” Takaesu said. “Rebuilding efforts have proceeded visibly on land, but they probably still have a long way to go in the ocean.”

The dinghy can accommodate 10, but only five or six usually go on board because of the small interior.

A monitoring chamber in the center of the dinghy contains four computer monitors. A multi-beam sonar on the bottom measures the seafloor topography and produces graphical output.

The constant movement of the dinghy can induce sea sickness.

“I have yet to get accustomed,” said Kenta Kobayashi, a 21-year-old rookie who was assigned to do hydrographic surveys in spring.

The dinghy shuttled back and forth at a speed of 8-9 kph within a radius of about 100 meters near a tsunami breakwater under construction 1 km off Onagawa Port. It shifted its trajectory slightly to one side each time, just as you do when you wipe a floor with a cloth.

“We are passing by the caissons,” Kobayashi said as the dinghy entered the waters where the objects had been spotted the previous day. When the depths became shallower, the computer screens shifted from deep blue to orange.

Koji Saito, a 25-year-old assistant hydrographic surveyor, said he was working for the Second Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture, when the quake and tsunami struck. He said he found a swept-up passenger car in Hachinohe Port, Aomori Prefecture.

“Whenever I am on a survey mission, I can’t help but look for a car that may contain missing people,” Saito said.

Tsunami breakwaters were destroyed in the ports of Ofunato and Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture, where water depths lost a maximum of 10 meters. But in a July 2011 survey, the water was 15 meters deeper than indicated in the nautical chart at one location in Hachinohe Port, Aomori Prefecture. It is believed that the tsunami induced a big eddy that scooped out part of the seafloor.

Coast Guard officials said local governments that administer ports are in charge of surveying any small changes, such as those resulting from wharf construction. The Coast Guard uses those survey results to modify its nautical charts.

But the 2011 disaster created so many changes that the Coast Guard took the unusual step of conducting comprehensive surveys and republishing nautical charts for all 24 ports affected.

It takes workers two to eight weeks to survey a single harbor. They work in three shifts around the clock. Data analysis requires an additional six months to one year.

“There is a pressing need for port maintenance to help rebuilding efforts,” said Hirokazu Mori, the 47-year-old chief of the hydrographic surveys division in the Second Regional Coast Guard Headquarters. “We hope to produce highly reliable nautical charts.”

Japan’s first nautical chart was created in 1872 by the navy and covered Kamaishi Port. Vessels of a certain dimension are legally obligated to equip themselves with nautical charts on a permanent basis.

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20 octobre 2014 1 20 /10 /octobre /2014 21:32


Oct. 15, 2014

Inside No-entry zone

The nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011 caused a major dispersal of radioactive substances over many cities and villages around the plant. Three and a half years later, there are still many areas considered evacuation zones. Especially the highly contaminated "no-entry zones." Radiation exposure there exceeds 50 millisieverts a year. A level so high some evacuees face the prospect of never returning home. NHK WORLD's Ryo Asami has the story.

Akinori Shibata and his family once lived in Namie, a rural municipality not far from Fukushima Daiichi. The nuclear accident forced them to evacuate some 30 kilometers west to the city of Nihonmatsu, where they now live.

Shibata made a tough decision earlier this year. He gave up on the idea of returning to Namie, and decided to start a new life.

"This is my second hometown now. Over there is my real home, but we can't even enter that area."
Akinori Shibata

Still, Shibata is eager to follow the situation in Namie. So he's applied to enter the restricted zone with some radiation experts from Niigata University led by Professor Makoto Naito.

Since the nuclear accident, the group has been involved in regular surveys in Namie. They allowed me to follow them into the restricted area.

Nuclear Watch (NHK) : Inside No-entry Zone

"We're right in front of the no-entry zone around Fukushima Daiichi. Access beyond this point is restricted. We need this two-day permit to get in."
Ryo Asami / Namie, Fukushima

Nuclear Watch (NHK) : Inside No-entry Zone

According to Naito's research, average radiation levels went down in the no-entry zone. But they remain high in some areas.

Then we accompanied Shibata to his home. It's been about 6 months since he last visited.

Shibata finds some belongings that have a special meaning for the family -- his children's school diplomas.

I think making a quick decision was the right thing to do. I want my aging parents to enjoy the rest of their lives, and my children still have a future.
That's why I want to give them a normal life in a normal house."
Akinori Shibata

Many evacuees like the Shibatas are weighing a similar decision.
They're torn between the hope of going back one day and giving up entirely to make a clean start.

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