Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Japan's Major Newspapers Have Timely "Scoops" on the Government "Suppression" of Information on Nuclear Issues After the Fukushima I NPP Accident

as the vocal opposition to the State Secrecy Protection Law (which is now in the Upper House) from the press, legal experts, scholars, celebrities, net citizens and citizens in the real (physical) world continues in Japan.

Mainichi, Asahi, and Tokyo Shinbun in particular have been expressing the fear, real or imagined, that anything related to the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident can be categorized by the national government as "state secret" and suppressed.

As if to prove their point, Mainichi and Asahi each published an article, supposedly disclosing the secret documents (both of which appear, simply, not to have been designated for public release and consumption - i.e. internal ministerial documents) related to the nuclear accident that they had obtained (Mainichi through information disclosure request, Asahi through insider leaking the information).

First, Mainichi says it has obtained a 30-page document, a report of the visit to Chernobyl in March 2012 by the delegation of the Cabinet Office, through information disclosure request. No reason is given why Mainichi requested this report one year and eight months later.

From Mainichi Shinbun, via Yahoo News (12/1/2013):


It has been revealed that the Cabinet Office complied the report that denied the significance of [so-called] "Chernobyl Act", which was established to support the victims after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 in the former Soviet Union. The Cabinet Office had sent officials in March 2012 to Russia and other countries to help decide the government response to the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. It was when the "Children and Disaster Victims Support Act", which inherited the principle from the Chernobyl Act, was being drafted. However, the trip report was never made public; instead it was distributed to pro-nuclear groups that had a close association [with the officials who went on the trip].


The "Children and Disaster Victims Support Act" was passed in June 2012, promising extensive support for [people] in the areas with certain levels of radiation exposure. However, in October 2013 the basic policy was set to limit the support areas to part of Fukushima Prefecture only. The members of the National Diet who led the effort to pass the Act now suspect that the national government was secretly planning to water down the Act from early on.


The 30-page trip report was written by the Cabinet Office Support Team for Nuclear Disaster Victims, and it was obtained by the information disclosure request from Mainichi Shinbun. The 10-person delegation was headed by Ikuro Sugawara, assistant Secretary General of the team (and Director General of Economic and Industrial Policy Bureau at Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry). The delegation went to Ukraine and Belarus (from 2/28 to 3/6/2012) and Russia (3/4 to 3/7/2012) in two groups, and interviewed government officials and researchers there.


While the "Chernobyl Act" confers the right to relocate [to residents] in the areas with annual radiation exposure exceeding 1 millisievert and the obligation to relocate in the areas with annual radiation exposure exceeding 5 millisieverts, the report denies the significance of the "Chernobyl Act" by saying "(Designation of the areas) are too strict", and citing testimonies such as "Compensation and support schemes become vested rights, and lifting or modifying the designated areas cannot be done due to opposition from municipalities and residents", "there is no benefit that justifies the enormous cost", "The Chernobyl Act is not appropriate to adopt in Japan". In comparing both nuclear accidents, the report also emphasizes that the [government] measures against health effects in Fukushima Prefecture were appropriate.


Ms. Kuniko Tanioka, former Councilor (then of Democratic Party of Japan) who led the effort to pass the Children and Disaster Victims Support Act says, "I haven't heard about the visit itself." Councilor Ryuhei Kawada (of Your Party) says, "It's clear that [the government] intended to downplay the damage at that time. The purpose was probably to squash the Children and Disaster Victims Support Act."


Mr. Sugawara argues that he wasn't involved with the Children and Disaster Victims Support Act. However, he admits that he used the report to spread a different idea from the Chernobyl Act and the Children and Disaster Victims Support Act, and says "At that time the health effects were exaggerated. So we explained to people by showing the report that the psychological care was more important." The report was distributed to pro-nuclear expert groups and members of the Diet who were not leading the effort to pass the Children and Disaster Victims Support Act.


Councilor Tatsuo Hirano, then-Minister of Reconstruction who ordered the trip says he instructed the officials to see how the Chernobyl Act was implemented, but he admits that the report may be biased. "You could say it is one-sided, if you read it today." Mr. Hirano says he didn't know how the report was used by Mr. Sugawara and his people. "The report ended up (being distributed to a small number of people without being made public). It should have been distributed to people with different opinions."

Haven't heard of it? Well Ms. Tanioka, it was your party who was in charge of the national government at that time. According to Mainichi, the report is biased because it lacks more dire testimonies, comments, research results from Ukraine and Belarus.

The so-called "Chernobyl Act" is revered in Japan among people who are worried about the effect of radiation from the accident as the infallible and scientific standard to deal with a nuclear accident and the victims of a nuclear accident.

Then, Asahi says it has obtained a document created in March 2011 right after the start of the Fukushima I NPP accident by an official at Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (which was simultaneously the promoter and the regulator of the nuclear industry in Japan at that time).

(Asahi also says it was TEPCO who caused the nuclear accident, not the 9.1 earthquake and huge tsunami caused by the quake.)

From Asahi Shinbun (12/2/2013; part):

福島事故直後に「原子力再生」 経産省が機密文書

Confidential document by METI: "Nuclear power revival" right after the Fukushima accident


Right after Tokyo Electric Power Company caused the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident in March 2011, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry created an internal document for "the revival of nuclear power" and "rebuilding the nuclear power plant export", it has been revealed. The ministry was trying to maintain the policy to promote nuclear power in the middle of confusion after the nuclear accident.


Asahi Shinbun obtained the "classified" (meaning the document requires access control) document dated in late March 2011 and titled "For the revival of nuclear power". According to the source, the document was created by the officials knowledgeable about nuclear power (plants), and distributed to the officials involved in energy policies. This document became one of the bases for confirming and planning the policies after the accident.


The "Executive Summary" at the top says "There is no stable energy supply without nuclear power," and "This is to declare the renewed determination by the national government to continue nuclear power." Further, it says "[We will] revive nuclear power, and rebuild the base for infrastructure export," reaffirming the maintaining of nuclear power plants and promotion of the export [of nuclear power plants]. It emphasizes [the revival of nuclear power] is "the revival of METI itself", and positions it as the most important policy [of the government].


In the export [section], it says "we will analyze the information from this tragedy and share it with the world". The mantra of the Abe administration, in promoting the export of nuclear power plants, is "to share the experience and lessons of the accident with the world", and this internal document may have served as a prototype.


Further, there are sections discussing the detailed plans such as: (1) Emergency response to the accident, (2) Emergency declaration (3) Forming the Nuclear Regulation Authority, (4) Dissolution of TEPCO and establishment of new electric power business structure. The Nuclear Regulation Authority was set up in September 2012 under the DPJ administration. According to the document, [nuclear power plants] to be inspected under the new standard and "restart the plants that pass the inspection", which dovetails with the policy under the DPJ administrations and the Abe administration whose policy is to "utilize nuclear power plants".


A bureaucrat who worked at the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy under METI at that time says, "The document was created by high-ranking officials knowledgeable about nuclear power plants. It is only natural that the ideas from the officials who know a lot about policy-making get implemented.


Under the State Secrecy Protection Law, documents related to nuclear power plants may be concealed. Citizens may not be able to examine the policy planning process.

As usual in Japan, neither newspaper even lets the readers see the documents. There is no link, no embed. We as the readers have to take their word for it.

Both Mainichi and Asahi had more than a year, if they wanted, to dig up and report their respective information, and examine the policy planning process as much as they liked. They didn't. But suddenly, with the State Secrecy Protection Law with its potential threat to press freedom which they didn't bother exercising much since the start of the nuclear accident, they cough up the information as if to prove their worth to the public.


Anonymous said...

I tend to agree that Tepco caused the nuclear accident. As far as I can see it was gross negligence, not to mention a bad investment decision.


Vyse Legendaire said...

Since Asahi and Mainichi's job is to capitalize on the stories of the day, I would argue they are operating at a high level. Once the law passes and this story blows over, they will move on to the next.

Anonymous said...


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