Let Fukushima children have the right to play and grow up

Original Japanese written by  staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

Below: Article from the March 13th, 2016 edition of the Akahata newspaper2016年3月13日赤旗

A “safe” place to play in

In Koriyama, Fukushima, there is a children’s play facility named “PEP Kids Koriyama.” Opened in December 2011, “PEP” has been providing children in Koriyama spaces where they can play as they want to, free from anxieties related to radiation.

So far, Fukushima Prefecture has opened 65 such facilities, taking advantage of its municipalities’ projects to secure indoor playgrounds for kids. The precursor to them, PEP Kids Koriyama, is the largest of its kind in Fukushima, so far serving some 300,000 people each year. On commission from the municipal government of Koriyama, a non-profit organization called “PEP Network of Child Care in Koriyama,” runs the facility.

Fun inside
Step inside the facility and you are in a large space, greater than a typical elementary school gym, surrounded by a great variety of play equipment. Here, playing with the equipment, a child can learn 36 basic types of body movements. There are also a sandpit 70m2 (753.5 square feet) in area, a tricycle circuit, a ball playground, and other equipment. In many parts of Fukushima, where radiation is still strong, children cannot play outdoors. Many kids and their parents come together at PEP from all over Fukushima.

Swimming pool? No, swimming balls!
Mr. Kentaro Sato (age 36) was having fun in the “ball pool,” where a player “swims” in the pool of plastic balls, with his two daughters, aged 5 and 3 years. Said he, “Playing outdoors still makes us quite uneasy. Here we can play in peace. We play here three times a month, and my kids always love it.” PEP Kids Koriyama is admission free, and you can play in it for 90 minutes each time.

— no play makes Jack a dull boy
Dr. Shintaro Kikuchi, a pediatrician involved in the administration of the play facility, has examined numerous kindergarteners and discovered that, following the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, the children’s rate of weight increase has declined to around a third of the rate before the disaster. The pediatrician also said, “The current tragedy of Fukushima has showed us how crucial children’s right to play and grow up is. We adults are responsible to secure that right of theirs to the maximum.”

A child in confinement
5 years ago, the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown took playgrounds and the opportunity for growth in physical strength away from Fukushima’s children, leaving them with many developmental and growth problems.

A certain mother raising her child in Koriyama, Fukushima, said she has not let her child play outdoors since the meltdown began in March 2011. Both she and her husband have to work, and it is hard for them to drive with their child to somewhere far away on weekends so their child can play outside. Their child, therefore, simply plays video games at home on days off from school. One’s childhood is important developmentally, and a childhood without the opportunity of playing outdoors can have seriously adverse effects on the child. The mother honestly said she was worried about her child’s future. Her child is deprived of the happy memories that come from playing in nature, and she feels guilty for that.

The Japanese author’s concerns
I too am deeply worried over Fukushima’s children and their parents. Parenting in an environment like this is quite burdensome and can badly affect the whole family.


Prayers turning into blossoms

Original Japanese written by  staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

The Year 5 Memorial Service of the 2011 Disaster of Eastern Japan was held on February 6th, 2016, at Southwark Cathedral, located close to London Bridge. (For another report on this service, please click here.)

Prior to the service every participant received a cherry blossom petal made of paper. On each petal, the name of a place was written where the March 2011 earthquake claimed one or more lives. This was a token of the participants’ firm determination to remember every casualty of the disaster, as well as their families and other victims who are still having a difficult time. All the participants attached their petals onto two cherry trees placed beside the altar. By the end of the service, the two trees came into full blossom, and were illuminated as a symbol of the light of hope.

Those cherry trees were then used, on March 11th, at the vigil at St. Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey. At the Abbey, they prayed for the victims of the March 2011 disaster during the hourly prayers.


Below is a message from Yuki Johnson, who was a part of the organizing team for the Memorial Service.

“After I was chosen to be part of the preparation team for the Memorial Service, I thought about what we could do to remember the victims of the East Japan Earthquake at the service, and decided to ‘turn prayers into cherry blossoms.’

I heard that many cherry trees, affected by the tsunami, blossomed in April 2011, soon after the disaster, to comfort countless victims. When I first visited hard-hit areas of the earthquake and tsunami, in early in 2012, I had a cherry blossom viewing party with some residents of temporary housing in Onahama, Fukushima, and this gave me the basic idea. A certain refugee from Okuma Town, which was contaminated by fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, woke up early on the morning of the cherry blossom viewing party and boiled a lot of rice for making many rice balls. He used a small rice boiler that had been donated as an aid item. Carrying the rice balls, many residents from the temporary housing, volunteers, and myself joined in the cherry blossom viewing party—a precious experience.

As I prepared the cherry petals, I prayed that we might have a vigil at a London church on the very day, March 11th. I consulted St. Paul’s Cathedral, but it was already booked with another scheduled event. Then, Bishop Michael Ipgrave advised me to contact Westminster Abbey, where I was told that we could have the vigil in the middle of February, 2016. This did not leave us much time for preparation. Still, many people from my Japanese-speaking church in the UK, as well as their friends, helped us successfully prepare for the vigil.

First, Ambassador Hayashi came to the vigil, followed by many members of the Japan Society in the UK, and its subgroup named “Koyo Kai.” The Fukushima People Association in the UK, as well as British citizens in London, some children and their dance instructors visiting London from Fukushima, and other travelers from Japan and other countries joined in the vigil, presenting cherry blossom petals, lighting candles, and offering prayers. The guides at Westminster Abbey joined in, one after another. Many of them thanked us for creating this opportunity.

Later, Ambassador Hayashi e-mailed Yuki, saying “Thank you for letting me join in the impressive vigil. I hope it gave consolation to many.”

Said Chizuru,”At the vigil, I saw countless people weeping, including a woman from Taiwan where many suffered an earthquake as well. That reminded me again of how deep their emotional wounds were. Also, I found that many young people outside of Japan were helping 2011 disaster victims. The vigil was an occasion of both tears and the people’s unity.”

Also, ”Someone expressed heartfelt words of thanks to me when he left the vigil. Possibly, he had suffered some tragedy in the 2011 disaster. I believe it was very meaningful that we had gathered for prayer across national borders. Many thanks to Yuki.”

Many participants wrote their messages in notebooks at the vigil, and we plan to bring them to the hard-hit areas this September. We intend to make them available for the public to read. All the messages are quite impressive. Quoted below are a few of them.

A visitor to London from Fukushima:
“I can never forget all those warm-hearted people helping us. Thanks to their help, I am alive today. Thank you!”
“Very sorry for your lost. Our souls crying with you”
“I pray for all the souls affected in this disaster. Thank you so much for offering this opportunity.”


Five years have passed since the East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. We now know, once again, that countless people are still suffering from a broken heart over the victims, not just in Japan, but here in the UK as well. At the vigil, we came together regardless of nationalities to share the sufferings of the victims of natural disasters and prayed together. I am very thankful to St. Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey, which kindly provided us with a place for the vigil.

Also, the hourly prayers at Westminster Abbey share some things in common with St. Margaret’s. So, the Abbey offered special prayers on the Year 5 commemoration of the East Japan Earthquake for the victims, for those helping them, and for the help provided by the Anglican-Episcopal Church in Japan. These prayers were also part of their collect of the day at evensong. Thanks!”


My three years as a volunteer What I am thinking now

Original Japanese written by Junko Hata, volunteer 
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

From the Project:
Five years have passed since the East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. Looking back on those five years, this “Voices” series presents the voices of those who have been walking together with us, one by one.

The first speaker is Ms. Junko Hata, a volunteer at “Support Center Shinchi Gangoya,” a support base located in a temporary housing complex at Shinchi Town, Soma, Fukushima.

“My three years as a volunteer—What I am thinking now”

Junko Hata, volunteer at Support Center Shinchi Gangoya

Over the last three years, I have been serving “Support Center Shinchi Gangoya” as a monthly volunteer. During this time, I have been mainly involved in weblog work, some clerical work like the management of photos and documents, as well as visits to temporary houses. I also help our Wednesday café, massage therapy, among other activities. I spend time with the residents of temporary housing in those activities, and such time is more precious to me than anything else.

Five years have passed since the March 2011 disaster, and three years since I began to be involved as a volunteer. Now, at long last, I am learning what it means to serve as a volunteer. Now my honest feeling is, “Thank you all for letting me serve as a volunteer.”

In this fifth year after the disaster, I think of the days when I first came to Shinchi.

I wrongly assumed, back then, that I knew what the affected people wanted and I thought I was giving them what they needed. After serving them in person, however, I found out I knew nothing. I was just complacent. In my bullet train ride back home, tears kept flowing from my eyes, and I wrote an e-mail to Rev. H, an Anglican priest at the Tohoku Diocese. He replied, “Junko, you have learned something precious. Helping someone means just being with them.”

Then, I had no idea at all what he meant by that. After serving at Shinchi every month over the last three years, however, I think I am learning what the priest meant. Just being together might sound like something anyone can do. Actually, however, truly being together is a difficult thing to do. Also, without a base like Shinchi Gangoya, being together would be impossible.

Deacon Lanson (*) sowed many seeds.
I read in a book that St. Francis of Assisi, when he rebuilt a broken church, carried each stone by himself. St. John’s Church, Isoyama, located in Soma, Fukushima, was devastated by the 2011 disaster. In the coming years, the church will be rebuilt and its activities resumed. I am convinced that my Support Center’s work should be part of the foundation of the rebuilding. With many thanks to all those Anglican Church people for standing with me, I am determined to keep serving the Support Center, with firm faith in the future of St. John’s Church.


(*) Deacon Anna L. Lanson
The mission of St. John’s Church, Isoyama began in the summer of 1920, when Deacon Anna L. Lanson opened a Sunday School retreat in a forest setting. After a period of sickness, she came to Isoyama to recover. She was then the principal of a girls’ school called “Aoba Jogakuin.”

While Deacon Lanson was back in the US on furlough, Deacon Carlsen, who founded a day-care facility named “The House of Sowing,” took her place. After Deacon Carlsen passed away, Deacon Lanson resumed her evangelical work in Isoyama.

Then, in 1928, the first baptism in Isoyama was held at Hoshimi So, Deacon Lanson’s residence. In 1932, the first confirmation took place there.

Then, in 1936, the sanctuary and parish hall of St. John’s Church was built, and the church was consecrated on the holiday of St. John, December 27th, of the same year. Some of the 56 members of the Sendai Seikokai (Anglican Church of Sendai) moved into this new church in Isoyama, to launch it. (Based on a commemorative publication of the 80 years of the Tohoku Diocese)




A Eucharist to commemorate the March 2011 earthquake after five years

Original Japanese written by  staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

On Friday, March 11th, 2016, the Tohoku Diocese, Anglican-Episcopal Church in Japan, held a “Eucharist and meditation to commemorate the East Japan Earthquake after five years.”

The participants, thinking of all those who are still struggling with many difficulties in the aftermath of the March 2011 disaster, said requiem prayers for those killed in the tsunami-earthquake tragedies. During a time of meditation, they listened to stories told by three people hard hit by the disaster. One of the three, a staffer of our Project, told the story below:

The story
On March 11th, 2011, soon after the earthquake and tsunami, no one had any hope for tomorrow in the darkness of the hard-hit areas. The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown devastated much of the Tohoku region. Back then, no one would have imagined that the region would be rebuilt to what it is today in 2016. We owe this recovery to the countless people who have walked together with us.

Still, we have many very difficult problems, for instance, the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, and radioactive contamination. We have yet to see any solution to these problems. As time goes by, these tragedies can fade from the memories of many, leaving numerous victims forgotten and unattended.

Torn apart
On the day the disaster hit, I was living in Sendai, Miyagi (some 95 miles NNE of Koriyama), while my husband was in Koriyama, Fukushima. The disaster destroyed essential utilities, and phone service was mostly unavailable. I simply was unable to find out how my husband was. I was utterly upset. Also, media reports on the Fukushima Daiichi accident were growing worse day by day. In short, the whole situation was getting worse and worse.

Five days after the earthquake, the US government specified Koriyama, where my husband was, as an evacuation zone, while Japan’s own government gave no such instructions to evacuate. The Japanese government thus proved that it was not seriously concerned with the lives of its own citizens. Thus, all of us in the affected areas were left to make our own decision as to stay or leave. Overwhelmed by fears, I managed to contact my husband and begged him to leave, even at the cost of his employment. So, he fled Fukushima before his office issued an evacuation instruction.

Today, “the daily routine” has come back to us, here in Tohoku, yet I sometimes suspect my husband is now paying a price for his evacuation. Maybe I should not have asked him to flee back then—I still blame myself for that.


To the surprise of many around me, four months after the disaster, I moved out of Sendai to Koriyama, to be with my husband who had returned there by then. They asked me, “Why on earth are you moving into that dangerous place!?” and “Why is it your family does not stop you!?” The answer was simple. I just could not stand leaving my beloved husband alone in the middle of radioactive danger, while I was in a much safer place. I felt so guilty. Ever since I came to Fukushima, I have been living with tension, carefully trying to avoid the invisible demon called radioactivity. I keep my windows shut, and am quite careful with what I eat and drink in order to prevent exposure to radiation. Meanwhile, my husband seems to have given up on such efforts and does not care about radiation anymore.

So, recently, he walks around without a mask even in the middle of a highly radioactive place. I cannot say anything about it, since I know that, given his situation, he just cannot live in a place like this if he is always worried about radiation exposure. In and out of home, radiation is a taboo topic here. With no “right” solution available, every one here has to set his/her own rules. Once you have decided to live here, you have to learn about radiation protection on your own, and make some compromises. Back in 2011, “kizuna” (ties or bonds) was a hot Japanese word all over the nation. The greatest relief I had were the ties I had with friends sharing the same sufferings.

And now —
Today, five years after the earthquake, here in Koriyama, where I am still living, a calm “daily routine” seems to be back, having replaced the craziness that followed the disaster. Actually, however, everyone living here remains more or less anxious about radiation.

Chanting “safety” and the invisible demon
In its efforts to rebuild Fukushima and bring people back there, Japan’s government is chanting “safe, easy” to describe Fukushima. If you, however, carry a Geiger counter and take measurements here, you will find a value above 0.23 mSv/h—the threshold for decontamination work—almost everywhere. Moreover, we have hot spots here and there where the measurement exceeds 1 mSv/h. In spite of this, many school kids walk to school without wearing a mask, exposed to high radiation, and they run around the school yard where radioactive dust is in the air. For school lunches, the education board is recommending Fukushima’s own produce. Though many parents buy only food from outside Fukushima, they cannot alter the ingredients of school lunches. (Carrying handmade sandwiches from home to school would force the child to stand out during the lunch.) And these worries are so serious one cannot talk about them easily. Among neighborhood mothers and between children, if you show your concern over radiation, you will be excluded.

Thyroid cancers in children
The Fukushima Prefectural Government is sponsoring echo examinations of the thyroids of citizens who were 0 to 18 years in age when the earthquake hit. The examination is held every two years, until such people reach 20 years in age, and then every five years after that.

As of February, 2016, thyroid cancer has been detected in 116 children, with many children already having undergone an operation. This echo examination takes only 3 to 5 minutes a person, and many people line up to receive it; however, there is no detailed interview conducted before or after the examination. Thus, both the children and their parents worry if such examinations are good enough to detect a hidden health problem. And once such an examination is done, they have to wait two years for the next examination.

Lasting damages
If an examination finds cancer in an unlucky child, he/she has to have an operation, which leaves a scar on the neck. I am more worried, however, over psychological damage. That child, in the future, will have to confess that he/she received a thyroid cancer operation at every major occasion in his/her life, e.g., when he/she enters a university, gets a job, or gets married. Then, she/he might face discrimination against and prejudice towards themselves as Fukushima residents. This also means that his/her parents could blame themselves, especially because they are deeply worried about their child. So far, no official announcement has been made on the cause-effect relationship of thyroid cancer in Fukushima’s children. Still, we have to keep in mind that, due to what we adults have done with respect to nuclear power, many children are suffering.

As part of this Project
Now, as I have been part of this Project on Nuclear Power and Radiation, I have had many opportunities to discover the many feelings that Fukushima residents have deep in their hearts. Often, I have been surprised to see people who are usually cheerful actually living with agony and worry here in Fukushima. I have learned that countless people are living in the dark, but are unable to raise their voices. I was ashamed that I was so happy-go-lucky, looking only at the brighter side. My colleagues and I have been striving to bring some light to people living in the dark. Also, I am one who has been helped by those who share my sufferings. I owe what I am today to them.

The Japanese author’s—and many others’—desire
I too am a resident of Fukushima now, and I am convinced that the greatest desire of many affected by the earthquake and the meltdown is: “This must not happen again. Build peace upon our sufferings.”


Mr. Ryoichi Wago — a poet making Fukushima known Now, he has begun to write about “sorrows” and “tears.”

Original Japanese written by  staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

Below: Article from the March 27th, 2016 edition of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper

[Asahi Shimbun] “Asahi Shimbun Digital” held a survey, asking readers: “Has the March 2011 catastrophe changed you?” Almost 80% of the respondents said the catastrophe had changed the ways they think. Below (in the Asahi Shimbun Digital’s web page), you can find some of the ways respondents said they had been changed. They include, among other things, changes in the respondent’s love and respect for his/her family and friends, and changes in their priorities in life. The Asahi Shimbun webpage also features interviews with a poet and a philosopher who have been spreading their opinions broadly ever since March 2011.
[Asahi Shimbun]
“Asahi Shimbun Digital” held a survey, asking readers: “Has the March 2011 catastrophe changed you?” Almost 80% of the respondents said the catastrophe had changed the ways they think. Below (in the Asahi Shimbun Digital’s web page), you can find some of the ways respondents said they had been changed. They include, among other things, changes in the respondent’s love and respect for his/her family and friends, and changes in their priorities in life. The Asahi Shimbun webpage also features interviews with a poet and a philosopher who have been spreading their opinions broadly ever since March 2011.
 Mr. Ryoichi Wago is a high school teacher and a poet.
Born and raised in Fukushima, he suffered in the East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Mr. Wago has been expressing, through his poetry, what goes on in the minds of  Fukushima residents. Today, five years after the catastrophe, he described his thoughts on the Asahi Shimbun webpage. I, Fumi Kawamori, found his thoughts quite amenable, so below I share some them with you.

“When the meltdown began, I despaired that Fukushima might become a ghost prefecture, with no humans living there. So, I decided to remain here in Fukushima till I die. It was then that the poem “Radiation is coming down. A silent night,” came to my mind.

The 2011 earthquake shook and broke something within me. By then, I had already been creating poems for more than two decades, questioning the irrationalities of the human world. Still, all my creations were useless before the seismic catastrophe. Everything I saw was irrational. My imagination was unable to say anything. What we had taken for granted as “the daily” was so fragile. I was terrified!

Before the 2011 disaster, my direction in writing poems was, “let those who have ears listen and understand.” That catastrophic experience changed my direction to “let more hear of this.” Now, I want to describe the irrationalities right in front of my eyes as they are, and I want to make this post-meltdown world known to as many people as possible. What is happening here in Fukushima is an issue for the whole society. It affects individual lives as well. So, I now use very plain words. I also use some words I never used before the meltdown, such as “sorrows” and “tears.”

In the minds of many people in the affected areas, there are still some dark things remaining, left unattended—just like those black vinyl bags containing contaminated soil, piled up here and there in Fukushima. Reading a poem can expose such “dark matter.” A reader of my poems wrote to me, saying “Your poems describe precisely my resentments and sorrows, and brought me to tears.” Such dark matter must be exposed and spat out, to create some space in the mind to accommodate something new. So, our fears, anxieties and sorrows should be given shapes and shared by many. For that reason, I keep to my music and theater activities as well.

Also, presenting the same old things in the same old language will make the messages stale. Bringing up the disaster again using new language that has never been used before can make people think about it once again. For instance, I want to see as many people as possible visit and see the hard-hit areas. Still, I need a word other than “tourism.”

“Reconstruction” is a word that sounds brutal to me. It implies that the acceleration of work and good results are what is wanted. So, all our tragedies and our agonies are measured by work and results. Here in Fukushima, some 100,000 people have evacuated. Many children who lost their homes to the tsunami only recently have been able to visit the beach. So, I intend to find words to describe their current feelings and thoughts fully, day in and day out.”


The Japanese author’s feelings
Once you have decided to keep living here in Fukushima, radiation is something you just have to learn to live with. Year after year, living in this desperate situation, it has grown harder and harder to talk about radiation with people here. Thus, we have anxieties, sorrows, etc. that we cannot let out of our mouths. They are piled up in the dark of our minds.

Such “dark matter” must be spat out one way or another—shared with others. Such sharing purifies my mind—this I can say for sure, out of my own experiences.







Shikoku Electric Power has decided to decommission Ikata’s Unit 1.

Original Japanese written by  staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

Below: Articles from the March 26th, 2016 editions of the Fukushima Minpo and Akahata newspapers

▼Click each image to read an English summary of the Japanese article.

On March 25th, 2016, Shikoku Electric Power decided to decommission Unit 1 of its Ikata Nuclear Power Plant (located in Ikata, Ehime Pref., some 250 miles WSW of Osaka) this coming May. The unit would be into its 40th year of operation in 2017. The power company has submitted a notice of the decision to decommission Unit 1 to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The residents around the nuclear power plant (NPP), however, are raising their voices: “The decision has come much too late. The remaining units should be decommissioned as well.”

Goliath money for Li’l David power
If Shikoku Electric wished to extend Unit 1’s operation, it would have to meet the legal requirement of submitting an application to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), by this September, a year before the reactor reaches its legal life of 40 years. The power company has been considering such an extension of Unit 1. However, this unit has a small power output (566,000 kW) and the extension work is estimated to cost more than JPY170 billion. Thus, the company has given up on the extension. Following the meltdown of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese government set up a new regulation, stating that a reactor can operate only for up to 40 years. Under this new regulation, last spring five reactors received the verdict of decommissioning. Ikata Unit 1 has become the sixth.

Feeding 30 Goliaths—would it make sense?
The government is proposing a mix of power sources (“best mix”), which says nuclear power should supply 20 to 22% of the total power demand in FY2030. This means some 30 reactors would need to be operating then. Still, the safety measures for them are monstrous, which could prevent many reactor restarts. Consequently, this “best mix” will be nothing more than a castle in the air.

The other units
At the same time, Shikoku Electric, on the same day, March 25th, submitted to the NRA an application for a pre-use inspection for Unit 3 of Ikata. This inspection is the final procedure to be taken before restarting a reactor. This unit “met” the new safety regulations last July. Those regulations are part of the requirements for a reactor restart. Its owner, Shikoku Electric, plans to restart Unit 3 late July, this year. The company is also considering a restart of Unit 2 as well.

After the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, Japan’s government amended the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law and set the basic operation period of a reactor at 40 years. An extension of up to 20 years might be granted, provided the mandatory safety measures, such as flame retarding of power cables, are correctly taken. The NRA examines if such measures have been appropriately taken, in compliance with the amended legal standard, before the reactor in question can be restarted.

Money, or life?
Many of the NPP’s equipment and facilities run under severe conditions of high temperatures and pressures. Also, vibration-induced metallic fatigue and thermal fatigue make them fragile. Moreover, close to the Ikata NPP runs the “median tectonic line,” one of Japan’s greatest active faults. Its Unit 1, almost 40 years at work, simply has to be decommissioned.

Yet there is a deeper issue. Shikoku Electric decided to decommission Ikata Unit 1 for business reasons—the extension cost exceeds the estimated profit from the extended operation. It was not a safety decision. The company plans to restart Ikata Unit 3, which has “met” the amended national standard, this July.

The Japanese author’s concerns and wish
The Ohtsu District Court, listening to the plaintiff residents, made a court decision to stop Units 3 and 4 of Kansai Electric’s Takahama NPP, which were only recently restarted. The court’s decision pointed out a crucial issue about the amended national standard, which provides the justification for a reactor restart: “Though the amendment was made in response to the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, we have yet to identify the very causes of the meltdown.” In a situation like this, restarting Ikata Unit 3 would be a downright folly. I sure hope Shikoku Electric will decommission all the units.





Three decades after the Chernobyl, and the decommissioning still has a long way to go.

Original Japanese written by  staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

Article from the March 25th, 2016 edition of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper2016年3月25日朝日

This April marks the 30th year since one of worst nuclear power plant (NPP) accidents in history hit the Chernobyl NPP, in Ukraine. On March 23rd, 2016, the “new shelter” (new safe confinement), currently under construction, was shown to the press.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which is financing the new confinement construction, showed it to media people from many nations. The new “shelter” is expected to contain radiation for 100 years to come. Still, no one knows when the decommissioning work, including dismantling of the sarcophagus, will be done. There also are worries over how to finance ongoing maintenance and control.

Thirty years since one of the worst NPP disasters ever, at Chernobyl, the “new shelter,” now in construction, was shown to the press.

A gigantic arch standing over —
Unit 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station (NPP) exploded on April 26th, 1986, during a test run. The explosion caused fires at the plant. During the 10 days that followed, the NPP released almost six times more radioactive substances than did TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi meltdown. The firefighting that followed the Chernobyl disaster killed more than 30 firefighters. The NPP’s surroundings are a no-go zone, even today.

Unit 4 was then sealed with a sarcophagus. The sarcophagus, however, has aged and some decay and structural collapses are presently visible in some of the walls and roof; this can result in radiation leakage. Therefore, the “new shelter”, a gigantic arch in shape, is supposed to cover the entire sarcophagus in order to contain radioactive substances. By the end of this year, the plan goes, the new confinement structure should be moved above the sarcophagus via a railway. Then, at long last, the reactor decommissioning work can begin.

A millennium to go
The new confinement, whose construction began in 2012, is estimated to cost some 1.5 billion euro. It is designed to withstand earthquakes and tornados, and to contain radioactive substances for a century to come. The specifics of the decommissioning, however, such as how to break down the sarcophagus, have yet to be determined. Another headache is how to finance the maintenance of such a gigantic structure. Moreover, the radioactive substances inside the sarcophagus, judging from their half-lives, will remain a serious threat for at least another millennium, which means they will have to build a new confinement structure at least ten times.

Thus, the decommissioning is a long and winding way, extending way far beyond the horizon.


40 years? Really??
Meanwhile, some people say decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi will take four decades or so. Is that really possible?

Mr. Hiroaki Koide, formerly an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, says, “The most crucial issue is to how to collect the melted down nuclear fuel. Currently, we have yet to find out the condition of the fuel since neither a human nor a robot can get close to it. Probably, the only ultimate solution will be to confine the fuel under a sarcophagus.” (quoted from the Chunichi Shimbun, December 9th, 2015)

Also, how much time, money, and how many workers will be necessary before the decommissioning is done? God alone knows.

No-human lands?
Now’ Japan’s government is lifting the evacuation orders on more municipalities around Fukushima Daiichi. Yet most of those “returning home” are elderly people. Few young ones are going home. Many are concerned, therefore, that when the decommissioning is done at long last, the surrounding areas could turn out to be empty places with no inhabitants.

The Japanese author’s concerns and wish
I am a resident in (a less contaminated area of) Fukushima. Ever since March, 2011, I have witnessed, with my own eyes and ears, how much harm radiation does.

The meltdown and its aftermath are still right here. I hope more readers will become serious about these issues. Also, I hope more people will visit Fukushima and see what is happening here.



“Another disaster like Fukushima Daiichi will hit again,” said 60% of researchers of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Original Japanese written by  staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

Below: Article from the March 20th, 2016 edition of the Fukushima Minpo newspaper2016年3月20日民報

Experts’ opinion
Kyodo News conducted a survey with researchers in the fields of seismology and volcanology, and they discovered that almost 90% of the respondents thought Japan’s national disaster countermeasures “have not changed substantially” since the March 2011 earthquake. According to those respondents, the nation has yet to learn the lessons from the 2011 devastations.

More than 60% say it can happen again
Taking advantage of this fifth annual commemoration of the East Japan Earthquake, the questionnaire was sent to 120 researchers in the areas of seismology, active faults, and/or volcanology. Only 27 researchers responded. More than 60% of the respondents (18) said that we could have another “nuclear-earthquake complex disaster,” which is to say that a devastative complex disaster including an earthquake, tsunami, and a nuclear reactor accident could happen again someday. Also, 26 of the respondents (96%) replied that an earthquake or another disaster that far exceeds our assumptions “will happen again someday.” Some of the respondent admitted that researchers can make wrong judgments. Some respondents thought that researchers should be more involved in the general society.


The Japanese author’s concerns
Another thing worrying me about this survey is the low response rate—only 20%. The remaining 80% who received the survey did not respond—why? These researchers are expected to make scientific contributions to disaster prevention. If they avoid commenting on issues related to nuclear power, it is a serious problem.

Many people most likely think of the tragedies of Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi when they hear about “nuclear power plant accidents.” The plain fact, however, is that globally many such accidents have taken place so far, and Japan is no exception. In September 1999, at JCO’s nuclear fuel plant in Tokai Village, Ibaraki (some 60 miles NE of central Tokyo), a “criticality accident,” something theoretically impossible, did happen and killed two employees. In August 2004, the secondary piping fractured—an accident that could have been easily prevented—at Unit 3 of Kansai Electric Power’s Mihama Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), killing five subcontract workers. Moreover, criticality incidents have hit the Shika NPP and Fukushima Daiichi in the past, yet were covered up. Thus, NPP accidents are actually quite frequent. This is a plain fact that citizens should be well aware of.

32,000 workers at Fukushima Daiichi exposed to 5 mSv or more of radiation annually

Original Japanese written by  staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

Articles from the March 7th, 2016 editions of the Fukushima Minpo and Akahata newspapers and from the March 9th edition of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper)

Fukushima Daiichi workers facing fatal risks
Of the workers counteracting the meltdown at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi, a total of more than 32,000 have been exposed to 5 mSv or more of radiation, as of the end of January 2016, according to a recent finding. 5 mSv is the criterion set up by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare for registering a worker as a victim of work-related leukemia. Anyone can tell that those workers will be exposed to even more radiation in the months to come than workers at other nuclear power plants, since they have highly dangerous jobs to do, such as inspecting the reactors’ insides, carrying used nuclear fuels out of the storage pools, etc. Since 2012, employees of TEPCO’s subsidiaries and subcontractors have been exposed to more radiation than TEPCO’s own employees have. And this gap has been ever expanding.


“Deadly dangerous — you go first”
Yet another fact discovered is that those non-TEPCO workers, who come to Fukushima Daiichi from TEPCO’s subcontractors and subsidiaries, have been exposed to radiation almost 4 times greater than the overall average exposure. Since almost 90% of all the workers are from outside TEPCO, their total exposure dose together reached some 30 times above the average. This is obvious evidence that the power company pushes more dangerous jobs to non-TEPCO workers.


Needed yet mistreated
Ever since Fukushima Daiichi began to melt down, countless workers have come and gone. Especially, in those areas with high radiation, many workers reach their legal limit of accumulative exposure in only three months of work or so and leave the nuclear power plant (NPP). Furthermore, those workers, exposed to all the dangers, are not receiving compensation worthy of their risks. On the average, they receive only JPY 200,000 or so, which is below what some of the decontamination workers outside the NPP receive. Thus, many NPP workers are voicing their dissatisfaction. Now, experts say that decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi will take four decades or so. Where can a sufficient workforce come from to handle 40 years of highly dangerous work?


In conclusion
Fukushima Daiichi is currently cooled and quiet, but only because workers there are risking their health and lives to keep it cooled. All of us must show our gratitude and respect to them.

At the same time, the Japanese government should establish a decent compensation system for all those workers who risk their own health to save the rest of us. Such a compensation system should cover the years following those workers’ retirements as well.

Operations of Takahama Nuclear Power Plant’s Units 3 and 4 suspended by a provisional ruling – for the first time with an in-operation NPP in Japan

Original Japanese written by  staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA

Articles from the March 10th, 2016 editions of the Asahi Shimbun, Fukushima Minpo, and Akahata newspapers

Sorry, no English summary of the Japanese articles is available.

The court’s ruling
29 residents of Shiga Prefecture, right next to Fukui Prefecture where Kansai Electric Power’s Takahama Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is located, filed an appeal at the Ohtsu District Court to suspend the operation of Units 3 and 4 of the NPP which were restarted in January and February of this year. The chief judge, Yoshihiko Yamamoto, gave a provisional ruling, suspending the two units’ operations. The judge brought up questions concerning the NPP’s countermeasures to protect against earthquakes and tsunami. He also questioned the escape plans for residents in the NPP’s vicinity, pointing out that the causes of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown have yet to be identified. He judged that Kansai Electric’s proof of the NPP’s safety is insufficient.


The result
The ruling took effect immediately. Of the two units in question, Unit 4 was already out of operation due to a technical problem. Thus, Kansai Electric has to stop the operation of Unit 3 on March 10th. At the same time, the power company plans to file an objection to the ruling and request a stay of execution at the same court. Unless this objection and/or the request are admitted, the court’s ruling to suspend the two units’ operations will remain legally valid.


Responsibility of the operator
The court’s ruling holds that the operator of a NPP has the responsibility to prove its safety, since the operator possesses the relevant data. If the operator is unable to give sufficient proof of safety, one can justly suppose that the operator’s judgments may be faulty.


The judge said —
The judge also pointed out that, considering how serious the meltdown of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi has been, a major NPP accident can cause environmental disasters whose affects go beyond national borders. This can more than offset any energy efficiency a NPP might produce. Thus, according to the judge, NPP safety standards should be strict enough to prevent an accident, even if some safety measures are considered extreme. The judge went on to say that the starting point of future safety standards, i.e., the causes of Fukushima Daiichi’s meltdown, “have yet to be identified.” In spite of this, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has set up new safety standards for NPPs. The judge said that he was “seriously worried” about the NRA’s attitude and “reluctant to believe that the NRA’s new safety standards and examinations are good enough to secure the peace and safety of society.”


Safety measures declared insufficient
Then, the judge described the court’s decision with respect to the severe accident prevention measures at the Takahama NPP. As a power company designs earthquake-proof buildings, it assumes standard earthquake motions. With respect to such motions, the judge decided that the active fault lengths that Kansai Electric Power assumed were inaccurate. This inaccuracy led to insufficient earthquake-proof designs, according to the judge. He also brought up, as a piece of evidence throwing doubt on the sufficiency of Kansai Electric’s countermeasures, literature reporting on the Tensho Earthquake of 1586, which caused devastation from a tsunami to the Wakasa Region, which includes Takahama, The judge went on to say that, even under the new safety standards, the cooling systems of water pools storing used nuclear fuel are more vulnerable to earthquakes than reactors are. Thus, the judge claimed, Kansai Electric did not have good countermeasures to protect against damage to such a pool which could lead to the leakage of cooling water.


A brave judge
The judge also brought up the escape plans prepared by the municipalities around the Takahama NPP and said that, “We have an urgent need to prepare specific escape plans under the initiative of the national government.” He also said, “We need a more comprehensive regulatory standard that covers such new escape plans as well. Japan’s national government today has the obligation, under the principle of faith and trust, to define such a new standard.” Thus he criticized the national government, which has been promoting NPP restarts under the existing safety regulations – something unusual for a court judge to do.


Right to live in peace
The plaintiffs in this court case, who live within 30 to 70 km (19 to 44 miles) of the Takahama NPP, claimed that a serious accident at the NPP would violate their personal right to live in peace and with good health. The court ruling agreed that such a violation would be highly probable in the case of a serious accident.


Takahama’s own weakness
As you know, at Fukushima Daiichi, they cooled down the reactor cores with a gigantic volume of water, and stored the contaminated water in tanks within the NPP’s premises. In contrast, Takahama has very limited premises, which cannot accommodate many huge water tanks. In the case of a meltdown or another serious accident, how can they take countermeasures given the limited premises? To aggravate the matter, there are not many escape routes available to the residents around Takahama. If a major earthquake hits, rescue vehicles would experience difficulties reaching their destinations.


The Japanese author’s wish
Now, five years after the meltdown began at Fukushima Daiichi, the Ohtsu District Court’s ruling precisely pointed out deficiencies in existing safety measures of NPPs. We must not let another Fukushima tragedy happen. I am convinced, therefore, that the NRA and the power companies have to face the problems pointed out by the court and respond with integrity.