Saturday, June 16, 2012

Policeman Politely Pointed a Protester in the Right Direction in June 15 Protest in Tokyo

A humorous moment tweeted by someone who went to the Prime Minister's Official Residence on June 15 evening to join the protest against Ooi Nuke Plant restart, but didn't know where exactly the action was. He was helped by a young, very polite policeman:


I was looking for the meeting place for the protest but couldn't find it. A young policeman came up to me and asked "Are you alright? Can I help you in any way?" (He was clearly a policeman guarding the Official Residence.) So I asked him, "Do you know where the action is, in front of the PM Official Residence?" He kindly told me, "Oh, that. Please go around to the other side." (LOL)

Policemen in Japan have always been there, on the street corners and in the neighborhood, helping out people, keeping order, giving directions. It's good to know that is still the case.

Video of June 15 Protest in Front of PM Official Residence in Tokyo

This is one of many taken by protesters and independent media on Friday, June 15, 2012.

This particular video was linked to the comment section of this blog by 'Janick'. It was also embedded in a tweet by Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times reporter in Tokyo. (I hope she didn't get into trouble with the bureau chief for tweeting the June 15 event.)

Here's another:

For more videos of the event, go to this blog.

Japan Times: "Oi decision draws international outcry"

From Japan Times (6/17/2012):

Oi decision draws international outcry
Reactor restarts hit by protests from Europe, America, Asia


OSAKA — The decision to restart two reactors at the Oi nuclear plant has sparked international concern, with antinuclear activists and politicians in many countries sending letters of protest and holding rallies outside Japanese embassies and consulates over the past week.

Politicians from green parties in Australia and Europe, as well as doctors, activists, and labor unions, have all formally opposed the restart, citing the Fukushima disaster.

In Germany, all 53 members of the green party sent a letter of protest Tuesday to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa via the Japanese Embassy.

Also in Berlin, Rebecca Harms, a German Green and member of the European Parliament, sent a letter on behalf of European Green Party members calling for a halt to the restart.

In Australia, meanwhile, Sen. Scott Ludlam of the Australian Greens sent a letter of protest June 12 to Japan's Embassy in Canberra.

In Italy, an appeal for a moratorium on restarting nuclear power plants bearing 3,700 signatures was presented to the Japanese Embassy in Rome, while antinuclear activists in New York delivered letters opposing the restart to the city's Japanese Consulate on Friday.

A separate rally to protest the decision is planned in front of Japan's Embassy in Washington on Monday. Other antinuclear groups in Chicago and Los Angeles will hold similar events this week and also deliver letters opposing the Oi restart to local Japanese consulates.

In Asia, antinuclear activists in Thailand held a rally in front of the Japanese Embassy on Friday and urged Tokyo to rethink its decision, while Japanese residents in South Korea joined local activists for a demonstration in front of Japan's Embassy in Seoul, also Friday.

I have seen the site (Green Party in preparation in Kyoto) that posts the supposed letter by Germany's green party addressed to Japan's PM Noda, but there is no link to the original document. I am not sure whether the letter is authentic or not, as the letter posted on the Kyoto Green Party site starts out rather rudely:

"Shame on you, Mr. Noda"

Personally, I agree that the prime minister deserves the rebuke like that, but I find it hard to believe that the official letter from an established political party in Germany submitted to the Japanese embassy in Berlin would start out with "Shame on you". But I could be wrong. If German readers of this blog can find the original statement, please let me know.

New York Times Reports on June 16 Protests in Japan Against Ooi Nuke Plant Restart, Not a Word About June 15

New York Times, regarded as "newspaper of record", joins the Japanese colleagues in reporting only the June 16 demonstration in front of the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Tokyo. Not a word about the June 15 protest.

To further diffuse the issue, New York Times mentions thousands of protesters "in Tokyo and elsewhere" on Saturday (June 16).

On Friday June 15, 11,000 people gathered in front of the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Tokyo, alone.

The writer, Martin Fackler, is the Tokyo bureau chief of New York Times.

From New York Times (6/16/2012; emphasis is mine):

Japan’s Prime Minister Orders Restart of Two Nuclear Reactors

Published: June 16, 2012

TOKYO — Brushing aside widespread public opposition to avoid feared electric power shortages, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the reactivation of two nuclear reactors at a plant in western Japan on Saturday, making it the nation’s first plant to go back online since the crisis last year in Fukushima.

The decision to restart the Ohi nuclear plant ends the temporary freeze of Japan’s nuclear power industry, when all 50 of the country’s functional reactors were idled after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Despite the prime minister’s vows to strengthen the Ohi plant against the same sort of huge earthquake and tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima plant in March 2011, the Japanese people have remained deeply divided on the safety of nuclear power.

Even after the prime minister made a rare appeal on June 8 on national television, opinion polls showed that more Japanese opposed restarting the Ohi plant than supported it. Mr. Noda urged the nation to return to nuclear power to avoid electricity shortages that could cause blackouts and cripple industry at a time of rising competition with China and the rest of Asia. Instead, he has supported a slow phasing out of nuclear plants over several decades, as energy alternatives are found.

Saturday’s decision was seen here as a victory for the still-powerful nuclear industry and its backers in the business world, whose political support has been crucial to the otherwise unpopular Mr. Noda. It remains to be seen how the broader public will react to the restart order. Many Japanese already believe that Mr. Noda has rushed to proclaim the Ohi plant safe despite the fact that a new earthquake-resistant control center and other safety measures at the plant are years from completion.

According to polls, two-thirds of Japanese express deep concern about the safety of nuclear plants after last year’s accident, which contaminated food with radiation and shattered the myth of Japan’s infallible nuclear technology. The day before Mr. Noda gave the order, his government was visited by an antinuclear group led by the Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe, which presented what it said were the signatures of 7.5 million people calling for the abolition of nuclear power.

On Saturday, thousands of protesters turned out in the rain in Tokyo and elsewhere with placards criticizing the prime minister’s assertion that the Ohi plant was safe.

(Full article at the link)

Reuters, whose English article on the Ooi restart mentioned 10,000 people protesting on Friday (June 15), is totally quiet about any protest, June 15 or 16, in the Japanese article. The Japanese article is not the translation of the English article, and it was written by different reporters.

(What Kind of Joke Is This?) Japanese Mainstream Media Report on June 16 Protest Against Ooi Restart, Pretend As If 11,000-Strong Protest on June 15 Never Happened

(UPDATED, with Asahi and New York Times join their colleagues.)

They must be feeling safe to report, because the scale of the protest was much smaller in the morning of June 16. 300 to 400 people showed up in the rain to protest the ministerial meeting that PM Noda was having at that time.

The Japanese mainstream media show no embarrassment for not having reported anything at all on the June 15 protest of 11,000 people. None of them even say there was a protest on June 15.

Who are they kidding? Majority of Japanese people whose sources of news are still traditional newspapers and TV, and/or who would rather not hear anything combative like a protest against a government policy.

TBS Television:

Nikkei Shinbun:

Jiji Tsushin:

NHK News:

Mainichi Shinbun:

(UPDATE) Asahi Shinbun just joined:

Reuters is one of the very few news outlets worldwide who reported on the June 15 protest that drew 11,000 people:

...But the decision risks a backlash from a public deeply concerned about nuclear safety. As many as 10,000 demonstrators gathered outside Noda's office on Friday night amid a heavy police presence to denounce the restarts, urging the premier to step down and shouting "Lives matter more than the economy."

I heard that BBC also reported in the news program, but I haven't found it myself.

(UPDATE) New York Times joins the Japanese colleagues by only mentioning June 16 protest. See my post.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Economist Magazine Praises Japan's PM Noda as Unlikely Hero for Doing What's Necessary for Japan

To the Economist reporter who wrote this, the politics in Japan today is the same as how it has existed for near-eternity - nothing but backroom bargaining between the ruling party and the opposition, occasionally enlivened by a vocal upstart (like the boy-wonder mayor of Osaka City), with the ignorant mass nervously looking in from outside to see what lot the power that be may have in store for them.

From The Economist (6/16/2012):

The unlikely Mr Noda
The prime minister has most foes on his own side

Jun 16th 2012 | TOKYO | from the print edition

UNLIKE Japan’s half-dozen recent prime ministers, many of whom were privileged offspring of earlier statesmen born for high office, Yoshihiko Noda last year came into the post unexpectedly. Despite that, and though his term may be no longer than theirs, Mr Noda is showing unexpected leadership. He may accomplish more than his recent predecessors combined.

His aim is to set an ageing, shrinking society back on course, after it was shaken by the disasters of last year. He is guided by the conviction that he must salvage the public finances, by doubling the consumption (sales) tax to 10%. The problem is that his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) promised, during the election campaign that led to it overturning five decades of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 2009, not to raise taxes. Mr Noda is seen as a traitor by those who stand by the campaign promises.

Worse, Mr Noda has courted powerful bureaucrats and the LDP-led opposition that controls the upper house of the Diet (parliament). In other words, he governs as LDP prime ministers used to. People in both camps find that hard to take. But most in the LDP know that the public would treat their party with even greater disdain if it now opposed a tax it was the first to promote. Both camps also fear the maverick mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, who is contemplating the launch of a national anti-establishment movement. In effect, he is pushing the LDP into bed with Mr Noda.

The opposition and government now seem set to do a deal to raise the tax in stages in 2014 and 2015. Then, in a Diet session extended by perhaps a month, they will try to decide how to spend the ¥13.5 trillion ($175 billion) it will raise each year. Under LDP pressure, Mr Noda is also backtracking from the more unworkable campaign promises on pensions, child care and help for the poor.

The prime minister is also staking his reputation on a second belief, that Japan needs to restart some of its nuclear reactors to prevent the economy being crippled by energy shortages. (All 54 of them were shut down, at a time of high anti-nuclear feeling, following the Fukushima disaster.) Here, too, Mr Noda is co-operating with the LDP: an independent nuclear regulator is likely to be proposed soon. That will give him some cover to announce the restarting of the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture, which powers the Kansai industrial region of which Osaka is the heart.

But what happens after that? Mr Noda seems safe from internal opposition for the moment. His chief foe within the party is Ichiro Ozawa, who has cast a longer political shadow over the past two decades than anyone. But Mr Ozawa’s fortunes fell this week when it emerged that his wife had written to his closest supporters about his two mistresses and his illegitimate child but, more crucially, had berated her husband for taking months to visit the disaster-affected areas of Iwate, his home prefecture.

The public standing of the prime minister’s other foe, Mr Hashimoto, may have also peaked. The combative mayor is now having to make compromises that undermine his outsider status. He is backing away from a fervently anti-nuclear stance and he needs to mollify politicians in Tokyo to get their backing for sweeping administrative changes in Osaka. Local spending cuts are also harming his popularity.

Back in Tokyo, some members of the opposition think that they can do business right through till next summer with the best prime minister the LDP never had. In effect, a kind of “grand coalition”, long favoured by the elites but always rejected by voters, would be at work. Mr Noda may prefer to see his twin aims passed into law and then call a snap election. On current form, he would lose. But it is when Mr Noda seems to care least about his own survival—and perhaps his party’s—that he is most effective.

Ooi Restart Protest Continue in Saturday Morning in Tokyo

Yasumi Iwakami's IWJ in multi-channel format, in front of the Prime Minister's Official Residence:

(I just wish USTREAM didn't force the viewer to watch the commercial...)

No major madia outlet has said a thing officially about the protest, even though some have at least admitted to its existence:

Asahi Shinbun's group who is stationed at the PM Official Residence (Asahi Shinbun Kantei Club) tweeted about one hour ago:


Good Morning. The entrance hall of the PM Official Residence is packed with reporters even though today is Saturday. Outside the Residence is full of people demonstrating despite the rain. The meeting to decide on the restart of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant is about to begin.

Why don't you report just that on your paper and on your TV, Asahi?

Some people who participated in June 15 demonstration reported that they were asked by a reporter from one of the major weekly magazines in Japan about Taro Yamamoto, actor-turned-antinuke activist. He recently got married, and is evacuating to a less contaminated area. According to these people, the reporter asked them:

What do you think of Mr. Yamamoto? Don't you think he is deserting under enemy fire?

One countered the reporter with a question:

Why don't you instead report on this protest, as it is happening?

The reporter's answer, according to this person, was:

I cannot write about it, I am just a reporter.

The person further asked:

Isn't it because writing about it is against the editorial policy of your magazine?

The reporter didn't answer.

Others suggested that the reporter, critical of people escaping the radiation, should volunteer to work inside the Containment Vessels at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant to see how unafraid he is.

World (Central Banks) Braces for Greek Election on Sunday

Any insight on the possible or likely outcome, European readers?

From Bloomberg News (6/15/2012):

Greek Candidates Make Final Pleas Before Vote With Euro at Stake

Greek political leaders made their final campaign pleas before elections tomorrow that may determine whether the country becomes the first member of the euro to leave the currency union.

“The first thing we must determine in the elections on June 17 is to choose between the euro or drachma,” New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras told a crowd of flag-waving supporters in central Syntagma square last night. He faced the Parliament building in Athens, the site of protests against austerity measures demanded in return for 240 billion euros ($303 billion) of emergency aid pledges. A vote for the anti- bailout Syriza party “means Greece out of the euro,” he said.

The vote will turn on whether Greeks, in a fifth year of recession, accept open-ended austerity to stay in the euro or reject the bailout conditions and risk the turmoil of exiting the 17-nation currency. World leaders, who gather for a summit in Mexico June 18, have said they’d prefer a pro-euro result, underscoring concern over global repercussions.

Almost 10 million Greeks are eligible to vote for the second time in six weeks after a May 6 ballot failed to yield a government.

Exit polls will be released when voting ends at 7 p.m. in Athens, with a first official result estimate due around 9:30 p.m. The final polls, published on June 1, showed no party set to win a majority.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, who promises to renege on Greece’s end of the bailout deal, and New Democracy ran even in final opinion polls. The socialist Pasok party, which won the 2009 election and led the country into the bailout, was third at about 13 percent.


Tsipras told Athenians June 14 that he was sending a message that nobody should bet on Greece leaving the euro area.

“Turn your backs on the two parties of bankruptcy,” Tsipras told supporters, referring to the Pasok and New Democracy parties which co-signed the rescue. They “lowered the Greek flag and surrendered it to Angela Merkel”-- the German chancellor who led the demand for austerity -- he said.

(Full article at the link)

With the rumor (or was it an announcement? or does it matter?) that the world's central banks (ECB, FED, BOJ, etc.) will intervene in case of a dire credit crunch that may happen depending on the result of the 2nd Greek election this Sunday, there seems to be nothing to lose for the Greeks to vote out the incumbent parties.

Judging by how the stock markets around the world fared toward the end of this week (particularly that of the US), the central bank intervention is very much priced in.

Noda Administration to Declare the Restart, While the Media Around the World Ignore 11,000-Strong Demonstrators in Front of PM's Official Residence in Tokyo

It's just amazing. A quick check of the Japanese and English media shows ZERO coverage of the largest protest so far (11,000 people) against Ooi Nuclear Power Plant right in front of the Prime Minister's Official Residence in central Tokyo.

ZERO. Not even Tokyo Shinbun.

In the meantime, the Noda administration has determined that "a certain understanding" among the Japanese citizens has been achieved regarding the restart of the plant, according to Jiji Tsushin.

From Jiji Tsushin (6/16/2012):


The government to official decide to restart Ooi Nuke Plant as early as next month, first plant to restart after the Fukushima nuclear accident; ministerial meeting to beheld after the governor agrees


Issei Nishikawa, Governor of Fukui Prefecture, will meet with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and others in the morning of June 16, and will express his intent to agree to the restart of Reactors 3 and 4 of KEPCO's Ooi Nuclear Power Plant (in Ooi-cho, Fukui). Then the government will hold a ministerial meeting of the prime minister and 3 other ministers including Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to officially decide to restart the plant, now that a certain understanding of the citizens has been obtained.


It will be the first time for any of the nuclear reactors that have stopped due to the regular maintenance after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident in March last year to resume power generation.


[On receiving the official word from the government,] KEPCO will immediately start preparing for the restart, and Reactor 3 of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant will be the first to restart in early July. Since early May, no commercial nuclear reactor has been in operation in Japan.

I found this photograph at independent journalist Ryusaku Tanaka's website, taken at the June 15 protest in front of the PM Official Residence in Tokyo. The funeral photos that they are holding are, from the left, Yoshito Sengoku, Goshi Hosono, and Yoshihiko Noda, with what looks like a Hitler moustache:

Net citizens in Japan, nonetheless, are on to the next campaign. They are calling the MSMs and demanding that they report on the anti-restart protests.

11,000 Protesters Against Ooi Restart, at PM Official Residence in Tokyo on June 15

so reports Tokyo Brown Tabby, in the cat's very first participation in any demonstration.

10,000 may not seem big to the US or European readers. But in the Japanese context, it is simply unprecedented to have that many people in the middle of the largest metropolis in Japan in protest against the national government policy (restart of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui).

From TBT's blog:

long long long neat rows of many many people
taro Yamamoto spoke
your speech was simply a love letter to nuclear village
didn't strike anyone elses heart 」

more rows of people

10000 people
organizer announced

finished at 8Pm in an orderly manner
on the train back home now
it was fun
I'll come back

TBT and others who joined the crowd say they were just ordinary people - mothers and fathers with children, salarymen and OLs on the way home from work, etc.

Independent journalist Yasumi Iwakami tweets it was 11,000 people in front of the PM's Official Residence in Tokyo. His outfit, IWJ, netcasted the event and the one in Osaka in front of KEPCO headquarters live.

In contrast, the Japanese MSMs told the viewers about everything but the protests against the restart - Aum Shinrikyo member arrest was the top news. By now, even the ordinary Japanese have caught up with their antics.

NHK Kabun (culture and science division) tweets "It's 41 days since all nuclear power plants in Japan stopped." People reply to this tweet by saying, "And you continue to ignore the protest in front of the PM Official Residence against the restart."

June 15 Protest Against Ooi Nuke Plant Restart, in Front of PM's Official Residence in Tokyo

It will start in about 45 minutes (at 6PM). Tokyo Brown Tabby just sent me a note on the way to the Prime Minister's Official Residence in central Tokyo. Tabby's blog will be updated from the cellphone. If you read Japanese, the blog is here. 

(I've just checked TBT's blog, and it's bilingual, at least the latest post is.)

Meanwhile, the official ceremony to restart Ooi Nuclear Power Plant for the sake of the Japanese citizens (whose voices don't count unless it is in elections) continues.

Jiji Tsushin reports that the governor of Fukui met with the president of KEPCO the plant operator, and the governor was very satisfied with the KEPCO president's "determination to try to make the safe operation the first priority" (安全運転を最優先するよう努める). KEPCO says it will try, and the governor is impressed.

Governor Nishikawa will meet with Prime Minister Noda in the morning of June 16, and the restart will be formally decided after the prime minister confer with his three ministers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

#Radioactive Japan: Professor Mori Suspects Deformity of Cedar in Ibaraki Prefecture May Be Due to Radiation Exposure

Dr. Satoshi Mori, professor emeritus at Tokyo University (Faculty of Agriculture), has the photographs of male and female flowers of a cedar tree that he collected this year in Hitachinaka City in Ibaraki Prefecture. The city is located at about 120 kilometers from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Cedar is simultaneously monoecious - i.e. bearing separate flowers of both sexes at the same time. Professor Mori explains that some branches bear only male flowers while others bear only female flowers.

But what he found in the cedar tree in Hitachinaka City was asymmetrical, malformed branches with both male and female flowers.

From Professor Mori's blog (6/15/2012):

First, these are what the normal cedar flowers should look like. Note the beautiful symmetry in both:

Male flowers:

Female flowers:

Now, cedar branches he found in Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture:

Male flowers growing on top and at the bottom of a female flower:

Female flowers were the odd ones out, Professor Mori says, because this branch was supposed to bear male flowers:

Symmetry is totally lost in this different male branch:

Callus in the center, with necrosis of male flowers (upper part):

Professor Mori suspects that the growing point of the cedar tree was irradiated, and that resulted in the developmental anomalies you see in these photos. He says more samples are needed to definitely conclude the anomalies are the result of irradiation.

Professor Mori has been studying the effect of radiation from the Fukushima accident on wild life by actually going to the affected, high-radiation areas including Iitate-mura in Fukushima and collecting samples - spiders, earthworms, dragon flies, cedars, etc. For more of his observations that I have covered, see these posts.

Former "Legendary Trader" of JP Morgan Warns Japan May Default By 2017

Mr. Takeshi Fujimaki, CEO of Fujimaki Japan, was one of the top traders at J.P. Morgan worldwide for over a decade, earning the moniker "legendary trader" from the chairman of J.P.Morgan (according to wiki). He was also an advisor to George Soros.

He has some extremely dire predictions for Japan, much more so than those by Kyle Bass.

In the Bloomberg News article, Fujimaki warns:

  • Japan may default sooner than Europe, by 2017;

  • Japanese yen may trade 400 to 500 yen per US dollar;

  • 10-year bond yield may shoot up above 80%.

In other words, he says Japan may become "Greece". What is he doing to hedge the risk? He says he's buying US dollars.

From Bloomberg News (6/14/2012):

Ex-Soros Adviser Fujimaki Says Japan to Probably Default by 2017

Investors should buy assets in U.S. dollars and other currencies of strong developed nations because Japan may default within five years, said Takeshi Fujimaki, former adviser to billionaire investor George Soros.

Japan is likely to default before Europe does, which could be in the next five years,” the president of Fujimaki Japan, an investment advising company in Tokyo, said in an interview yesterday. Japanese should hold foreign-currency products, such as those denominated in the greenback, Swiss franc, sterling, Australian and Canadian dollars, Fujimaki said.

Should the Japanese government default, the yen may weaken to 400-500 per dollar, and the yields on benchmark 10-year bonds could surge above 80 percent, according to Fujimaki. “I’m buying dollars in case of an emergency,” he said.

The yen fell 0.2 percent to 79.48 per dollar as of 9:14 a.m. in Tokyo from its close in New York yesterday. The currency touched the post war high of 75.35 per dollar on Oct. 31 and has averaged about 103 over the past decade. Japan’s 10-year yields were little changed yesterday at 0.86 percent. Rates on June 4 dropped to 0.79 percent, the lowest since June 2003.

Five-year credit-default swaps that insure Japan’s debt from nonpayment were at 90.9 basis points yesterday, up from a seven-month low of 90.1 on March 27, according to CME Group Inc.’s CMA. The contracts pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities if a borrower fails to meet its debt agreements. A drop signals improving perceptions of creditworthiness, while an increase suggests the opposite.

Ballooning Debt

Japan’s public borrowings, the world’s biggest, will balloon to 245.6 percent of its annual economic output in 2014, up from 67.3 percent in 1984, an estimate by the International Monetary Fund shows. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is struggling to gather support for his plan to double the 5 percent sales tax by 2015 to help reduce debt.

“The yen and the JGB market are in a bubble,” Fujimaki said. “With the gigantic debt Japan has accumulated, a thin needle, or even a gentle breeze may pop this. Events in Europe can possibly trigger this to blow up.”

Greeks vote in a general election on June 17 after balloting in May failed to produce a coalition government. The result may determine whether Greece abides by spending reductions imposed upon it to receive two international bailouts and stay in the euro. The euro currency bloc may break up in the next 5 to 10 years, Fujimaki said.

“There’s no way out of Japan’s crisis,” Fujimaki said. “The only option left for Japan is either default or print money into hyper-inflation.”

(Entire article at the link)

There are many, both in Japan and outside, who say "Japanese sovereign debt is not like that of Greece, or the US, because the debt is almost all held in Japan by the Japanese". Well, that's precisely the problem.

Fujimaki says in a Nikkei Shinbun article (6/14/2012) that:

  • Japan's financial institutions have been investing the deposit money in the Japanese government bonds (JGBs). In the case of Japan Post Bank, 80% of the deposit money is invested in JGBs.

  • Life insurance companies used to lend out more than 50% of the money from the insurance premiums collected from the policy holders; now, it's only 13%, and the rest of the money goes to the JGBs.

  • Ratio of loan to deposit at private banks was 98% 10 years ago; now it is only 73% and the difference has gone to the JGBs.

If the Japanese government defaults and the JGBs become worthless, there will be no deposits, no pensions, no insurance payout, he says.

He also cites the example of wartime bonds issued during the World War II in Japan. The ownership of the bonds was 100% Japanese, but that didn't prevent the bonds from becoming worthless in the post-war inflation.

Videos of Quince No.2 in Reactor 2 Bldg Survey on 6/13/2012: Meeting Quince No.1, Finding 880 Millisieverts/hr Spot

Video No.1: Quince No.2 encounters Quince No.1, stranded there since October last year. The radiation level is about 10 millisieverts/hour. So by now, Quince No.1 may have had about 57 sieverts of cumulative radiation exposure...

Video No.11: Quince No.2 finds 880 millisieverts/hour radiation spot, right above the reactor (4 minutes 12 seconds into the video). As the robot steps onto the area above the top of the reactor, the radiation levels rise very rapidly:

Again, Quince's path and the air dose levels on the 5th floor of Reactor 2:

For the rest of the videos, go to TEPCO's website, here.

(UPDATED) #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 2 Bldg: Robot Quince Near 880 Millisieverts/Hr Location

Videos posted in my latest post, here.

From TEPCO's Photos for the Press page (6/14/2012), a photograph taken by Quince No.2 as it was about to enter the location (right above the reactor) with the highest radiation (880 millisieverts/hour):

Quince's path and the air dose levels on the 5th floor of Reactor 2:

In the previous survey, Quince didn't enter this particular area of extremely high radiation.

(I'll post the video later. TEPCO uploaded 12 video segments...)

(I just found Quince No.1 in the very first video! 10 millisieverts/hour radiation level near Quince No.1.)

880 millisieverts/hour spot on the 5th floor (in video No.11):

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Farce to Restart Ooi Nuke Plant Proceeds, All-Clear Expected on June 15

The farcical official ceremony to restart a nuclear power plant that does not have an earthquake-proof building like Fukushima I Nuke Plant and which possibly sits on top of an active fault or two on the coast of Fukui Prefecture continues, in complete disregard for the "small people".

From Jiji Tsushin (6/14/2012), we learn that:

  • Fukui Prefectural Assembly met on June 14, and the whole assembly (except for the Japan Communist Party members and unaffiliated members) deferred to the governor of Fukui Issei Nishikawa to make the final decision of the restart.

  • Ooi-cho's Mayor Shinobu Tokioka agreed to the restart, and cited 5 (non-)reasons why he was in favor of the restart to the municipal assembly. They were 1) Prime Mnister Noda made a speech to the citizens of Japan about the necessity of the Ooi restart; 2) Experts in the prefecture said it would be safe; 3) There would be a special surveillance system; 4) The Ooi-cho assembly had agreed to the restart; 5) His town had a responsibility to provide electricity to Kansai Region.

According to the same Jiji Tsushin news, the next stage of the ceremony will include:
  1. The governor of Fukui will ceremoniously confer with the mayor of Ooi-cho, to confirm the mayor's intention of the plant restart.

  2. The governor will then seek further assurance for safety from KEPCO.

  3. KEPCO will tell the governor the plant will be safe.

  4. The governor will tell the national government that he will agree to the restart.

  5. The prime minister will declare the restart. [Remember, he is restarting the plant for the sake of the Japanese citizens.]

So the grand finale will be on Friday, June 15, right before Noda departs for Mexico for the G20 meeting, whether the residents of Japan like it or not.

As a gesture to further placate the unreasonable citizenry who demand no nuclear plant restart, the Diet will pass a legislation, also on June 15, which was concocted behind the closed door by the non-official officials of the leading parties (DPJ, LDP and Komei Party). The legislation will create a new government council on nuclear disaster prevention whose members will include all the cabinet ministers.

Also from Jiji Tsushin (6/14/2012):


DPJ, LDP, Komei agreed on the legislation on nuclear regulatory organizations that would newly create "Nuclear Disaster Prevention Council"


On June 14, DPJ, LDP, Komei came to the final agreement on the legislation to create the new organizations in charge of nuclear safety. As the nuclear disaster prevention organization in peacetime, "Nuclear Disaster Prevention Council" will be newly created, with the prime minister at its head and made up of all the cabinet ministers. Now that the parties have agreed, it will be proposed as "legislation by Diet members" and is expected to pass the Lower House on June 15.


Creation of the Council was discussed and agreed on by DPJ's Yoshito Sengoku (Acting chairman of the Policy Research Council), LDP's Yoshimasa Hayashi (Acting chairman of the Policy Research Council), and Komei's Tetsuo Saito (Acting Chief Secretary) inside the Diet building on June 14.

Ummm. The government had a similar committee already at the time of the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident. It miserably failed. So what do the true-blue politicians do? Do it again of course. Maybe the next time will be different!

If you are in Tokyo or Osaka on June 15, you can join the demonstrations at the Prime Minister's Official Residence (Tokyo) or KEPCO's headquarters (Osaka City) at 6PM. For more, see my previous post.

Nigel Farage: "Euro Titanic Hit the Iceberg and There Aren't Enough Lifeboats"

From Zero Hedge (6/13/2012):

In an epic rant, trumping Biderman, UKIP's Nigel Farage appears to have reached the limit of his frustration with his 'peers' in the European Parliament after the Spanish bailout. Rajoy's proclamation that this bailout shows what a success the euro-zone has been, sends Farage over the edge as he sees the Spaniard as just about the most incompetent leader in the whole of Europe (up there with favorites like Van Rompuy and Barroso). The erudite Englishman notes that by any objective criteria "The Euro Has Failed" expanding on the insane farce of Italy funding Spain's banking bailout at a loss (borrowing at 6% to fund a loan at 3% as we discussed here). "This 'genius' deal makes things worse not better" as it merely drives other nations towards needing bailouts themselves and while his socialist colleagues in the room are mumbling and checking their blackberries, he reminds them that Spanish national debt will surge and that 100 billion does not solve the problem, and that if Greece leaves, the ECB is failed, is gone, and to rectify this there will be a cash call from the very same PIIS (Ex-G) that are tumbling towards the abyss. Blood pressure surges as he screams "you couldn't make this up" concluding that "the Euro Titanic has now hit the Iceberg and sadly there simply aren't enough lifeboats."

Ooi Nuke Plant Restart: Mayor Agrees, 130 Residents in Fukui and Shiga Sue the National Government, A Diet Representative Complains to the Fukui Governor

all in one day.

Mainichi Shinbun (6/13/2012) reports 130 residents in Fukui Prefecture (where Ooi Nuclear Power Plant is located) and the neighboring Shiga Prefecture have filed a lawsuit against the national government, demanding that the government order Kansai Electric to not restart the Reactors 3 and 4.

Kyodo News has just reported that the mayor of Ooi-cho has agreed to the restart.

As I write, Ms. Yukiko Miyake (DPJ Representative, Lower House), is at the Fukui prefectural government, demanding that the governor not agree to the restart. She is talking with the vice governor. Yasumi Iwakami's IWJ has a live netcast, here. She is acting as a representative of 122 DPJ politicians who signed a petition not to restart Ooi Nuclear Power Plant. (Ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan didn't sign, by the way.)


Toru Hashimoto, the boy-wonder mayor of Osaka City who meekly turned pro-restart, dutifully praises the mayor of Ooi-cho, Jiji Tsushin reports (6/14/2012). "I appreciate it very much", the mayor said to the press. He also insisted that the restart be "provisional", that the plant operate only during the summer peak months.

No way that's going to happen. Besides, that would expose plant maintenance workers to unnecessary, added radiation exposure just to please Hashimoto.

880 Millisieverts/Hr Radiation on Reactor 2's 5th Floor at #Fukushima, Found by Quince the Robot

Quince No.2 did not find visible damage to the building interior, but got 505.6 millisieverts of radiation exposure for the 4-hour work.

Earlier, human workers went down to the Torus Room of Reactor 2 trying to photograph the level of water inside the Suppression Chamber with an infrared camera to estimate the location of the leak. They were unsuccessful, probably due to steam on the surface of the water.

Reactor 2 is more scary to me than Reactor 3 or Reactor 4. No visible damage anywhere, yet it has released the most radioactive materials. Thermocouples keep failing, and such a high radiation out of nowhere.

From Sankei Shinbun (6/13/2012):

2号機5階で毎時880ミリシーベルト 福島第1

Fukushima Daiichi (I) 880 Millisieverts/hour on 5th floor of Reactor 2


TEPCO announced on June 13 that it conducted the survey of the interior of the Reactor 2 building using a robot, which measured the 880 millisieverts/hour radiation near the concrete floor on the 5th floor right above the reactor. The 5-year cumulative maximum radiation exposure for nuclear workers (100 millisieverts) would be reached in about 7 minutes at that location. TEPCO thinks it will be difficult for [human] workers to enter the 5th floor. According to the company, there was no visible damage to the interior of the building.


The improved version of "Quince", robot developed in Japan for disaster response support, went up to the 5th floor and measured the radiation. The concrete floor with the highest radiation level this time is about 2-meter thick, and about 3.5 meter away from the top of the Containment Vessel.


The robot got 505.6 millisieverts of radiation exposure in the 4-hour survey, and the 9 [human] workers got the max 3.95 millisieverts.

There is no data yet on TEPCO's sites (English or Japanese). I'll post when they do.

OT: Egan Jones Downgrades Spain to CCC+, Lower than Uganda (Which Has B Rating), While Greeks Stock Up Non-Perishable Food

From Zero Hedge (6/13/2012):

And so, the little rating agency that could, just gave Spain the triple hooks, downgrading the country from B to CCC+, negative outlook. As a reminder, the Uganda credit rating is B: it sure is no Spain.
From EJ:

Synopsis: KINGDOM OF SPAIN EJR Sen Rating(Curr/Prj) CCC+/ CC Rating Analysis - 6/13/12 EJR CP Rating: C Debt: EUR805.9B EJR's 1 yr. Default Probability: 18.0% Spain continues to be weakened by high funding costs (6.75% for 10yr today), the gov. deficit of 9.6%, an estimated decline in GDP of 1.7% (per the Economy Ministry), the 24.4% unemployment, the IIF's recent estimate of additional bank loan losses up to EUR260B, and possible depositor withdrawals. Over the past four fiscal years, that is from 2008 to 2011, Spain's GDP declined from EUR1.09 trillion to EUR1.07 trillion. Meanwhile, its debt mushroomed from EUR519B to EUR806B. With the EUR100B infusion for Spain's banks, the debt to GDP will rise to 90% plus future additions for the government deficit, support for its regions and additional support for its banks. Social benefits are a major problem; while payments to the govt have been down EUR 3B (2008 to 2011), payments from the government have been up EUR 29B). As a result, Spain is short about EUR50B per year for social payments, EUR35+B per year for interest, and an additional EUR 30B for asset growth; hence the EUR110+B per annum increase in debt. As we expected, Spain requested support for its banking sector and will probably need cash for weaker provinces. Assets of Spain's largest two banks exceed its GDP. We are slipping our rating to " CCC+ " ; watch for more requests for support from the banks and money creation.

Just the reminder that the Greek election is on Sunday, June 17, and people are withdrawing money from the banks at a furious pace ($1 billion, or about 800 million euros per day). As CNBC reports, they are stocking up on non-perishable food:

...New Democracy has been telling voters they must choose between the euro or the drachma, while Syriza promises to end the austerity measures imposed by Greece's international lenders, such as salary and pension cuts, that have driven many Greeks into abject poverty.

Fears that Greece will collapse financially and leave the euro have slowly drained Greek banks over the last two years. Central bank figures show that deposits shrank by about 17 percent, or 35.4 billion euros ($44.4 billion) in 2011 and stood 165.9 billion euros ($208.1 billion) at end-April.

Bankers said the pace was picking up ahead of the vote, with combined daily deposit outflows from the major banks at 500-800 million euros ($625 million to $1 billion) over the past few days, and 10-30 million euros ($12-36 million) at smaller banks.

"This includes cash withdrawals, wire transfers and investments into money market funds, German Bonds, U.S. Treasuries and EIB bonds," said one banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Retailers said consumers were stocking up on non-perishable food while almost all other goods were seeing a huge drop in sales as cash-strapped Greeks have no money to spare in the country's fifth year of recession.

"People are terrified by the prospect of returning to the drachma and some believe it's good to fill their cupboard with food products," said Vassilis Korkidis, head of the ESEE retail federation.

"It's over the top, we must not panic. Filling the cupboard with food doesn't mean we will escape the crisis," he said.

There Is Another Camera from Reactor 4 Direction, Says a Worker at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant

TEPCO's live cam of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is set up near the Seismic Isolation Building near the Reactor 1 building, looking toward the Reactor 4 building and the Common Spent Fuel Pool (i.e. looking southeast).

The worker who's been tweeting from the plant since March 2011 says in one of his tweets yesterday (about how decisions are made on project costs, etc) that there is another camera from the direction of Reactor 4:


In fact, there is a camera right now from the Reactor 4 side. There is a camera on the upper part of the [exhaust] stack on the south side of Reactor 4, and we've been looking [at the images from that camera].

His tweet is in response to a comment about a talk of moving the live cam to a different location, possibly to the Reactor 4 side.

I think he said last year (fairly early in the crisis) that there were many monitoring cameras throughout the plant but TEPCO didn't talk about them. TEPCO's spokesman Matsumoto admitted to the existence of such cameras in a press conference several month ago (I think), and said he would look into it. (He must be still looking into it.)

The worker also alleges that the fabric cover over the Reactor 1 building is only cosmetic, and nothing to do with preventing the radioactive materials from escaping. There was a talk, presumably from the contractors, to build a more permanent structure (more like the one they are building for Reactor 4) but that was shot down by TEPCO over the cost concerns. They wanted the badly damaged Reactor 1 building out of sight of the live cam, he says.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

#Radioactive Japan: Village in Gunma Prefecture Recycles Contaminated Soil and Uses It in the Village Soccer Field

There is a short poem ("haiku") by Master Basho Matsuo that goes like this in English:

If I say some things
My words get frozen on my lips
In the autumnal wind

It means, "So what's the point of saying?"

Replace the word "autumnal" with "perpetual" and that's been Japan since March 2011.

The latest idiocy comes from a village in Gunma Prefecture where many have pointed out that the radiation levels are rather high.

Villagers "decontaminated" the public places in the village by removing the contaminated soil. What then did the village do with the contaminated soil? They used it in the soccer field.

From Sankei Shinbun local version for Gunma (6/13/2012):

除染で撤去の土、サッカー場使用 川場村「問題ない」 

Soil removed by decontamination work was used in the soccer field, and Kawaba-mura says "No problem"


It was revealed during the June 12 meeting of the [Gunma] prefectural assembly special committee on radiation countermeasures that the soil contaminated with radioactive cesium that had been removed by the volunteers in Kawaba-mura was used as filling to raise the ground level of the soccer field that the village was building.


According to the survey done by the prefectural government last summer, 1,300 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected, which was below the national standard for burying safely in the landfill (8,000 becquerels/kg). Since the soccer field was completed, the [air] radiation levels on the perimeter of the field have been low. The village says, "There is no problem of safety."


According to Gunma Prefecture and the village, volunteers in the village removed about 40 tonnes of surface soil in August last year from 4 locations in the village that were found with relatively high levels of air radiation, including the schoolyard of Kawaba Elementary School. The village was temporarily storing the removed soil on the land owned by the village. However, after the residents living nearby complained, the village buried the soil about 50 centimeter deep in the soccer field it was building in September.

Kawaba-mura's official radiation levels are between 0.1 to 0.5 microsievert/hour. People who actually went there and measure various locations in the village report much higher numbers. Professor Yukio Hayakawa considers Kawaba-mura as one of the hot spots in Kanto Region. Setagaya-ku in Tokyo continues to send school children to the "summer school" in Kawaba-mura.

R.I.P. Kazuo Hizumi, Lawyer and Journalist Who Wrung Out Truth From TEPCO

At 8:28PM on June 12, 2012, he was finally released from the pain from his terminal gallbladder cancer. He had just turned 49 the previous day.

I do not know him personally, but he was one of the several independent journalists I started to recognize in the early days of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident when he was a fixture at TEPCO's press conferences. In May last year, he was diagnosed with the terminal case of gallbladder cancer and was told he had 6 months to live. If anything, that spurred more activities from him. He continued to attend the press conferences, and co-authored a book with another independent journalist (Ryuichi Kino) who was (still is) a fixture at TEPCO's pressers titled "検証 福島原発事故・記者会見――東電・政府は何を隠したのか (Investigation: Fukushima Nuckear Power Plant Accident Press Conferences - What did TEPCO and the government hide)". The book was published in January this year.

TBS Television will air a documentary on him on Saturday (June 17), which was made before his death. As the webpage that introduces the program says,


After the start of the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant accident, Kazuo Hizumi attended the TEPCO's press conferences every single day, questioning TEPCO and the government officials who tried to minimize the accident. As both a lawyer and journalist, Hizumi's questioning was sharp, pressing TEPCO and the government to disclose information that directly affected ordinary citizens, such as the discharge of contaminated water and low-level radiation exposure.

That's how I remember hearing him in the TEPCO press conferences that I watched via the net on USTREAM, thanks to another independent journalist Yasumi Iwakami.

Europe Has 150 Nuclear Reactors to Decommission in Two Decades

It may cost up to $1 billion to dismantle one reactor, so the potential total of $150 billion. Where does the money come from?

The US is kicking the can down the road by extending the license and doing nothing, for up to 60 years, even after the reactor is shut down. (See the New York Times article from March this year.)

(On the other hand, Spain just got $125 billion from EU to recap its banks...)

From The Washington Post WONKBLOG (6/9/2012):

How hard is it to dismantle 150 nuclear reactors? Europe’s about to find out.
Posted by Brad Plumer at 09:31 AM ET, 06/09/2012

Last year, after the tsunami and reactor meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, many European nations decided to phase out their existing fleets of nuclear power plants. Germany and Belgium are aiming to end all atomic generation by 2030. Switzerland is shooting for 2035.

Yet the mere act of shutting down those reactors is going to pose a huge challenge in the years ahead. According to a new report from GlobalData, Europe is on track to decommission nearly 150 nuclear power plants in the next two decades. Some, like those in Germany, are being mothballed for political reasons. Others, in France and Britain, are simply getting old. Yet dismantling a nuclear reactor is an arduous, time-consuming task — typically costing between $400 million and $1 billion per plant. And it’s not clear that Europe is fully prepared for the onslaught of retirements.

In a recent issue of New Scientist, Fred Pearce offered a handy step-by-step guide on how to take apart a nuclear reactor. There are thousands of tons of radioactive material to deal with — not just the spent fuel rods, but also various materials that have picked up lower levels of radioactivity. That includes, potentially, the reactor vessel, the fuel-rod casings, various bits of scrap metal and even old clothing. That waste can’t just be carted off to regular landfills; it needs to be disposed of properly. (Here’s a graphic breaking down the various types of waste.)

Very broadly speaking, there are three main ways (pdf) to decommission a nuclear reactor. The first option is to remove the fuel, disassemble the surrounding structure and find a safe place to store all the different radioactive bits. One problem with this option? Not every country in Europe currently has proper waste facilities set up, Pearce reports.

Alternatively, workers could simply take out the fuel, drain the plumbing and then lock up the reactor, letting the isotopes decay until the plant itself is less radioactive. After 10 to 80 years, the whole structure will be easier to dismantle. The third option, meanwhile, is to bury the reactor in a “tomb” of concrete and hope that no one cracks the structure open for the next 1,400 years. The U.S. Department of Energy took this approach for two old reactors at Savannah River in South Carolina.

All of these methods are time-intensive. As of 2012, some 138 nuclear reactors have been shut down (pdf) around the world, but only 17 have been fully decommissioned. It took England two full decades to finish its decommissioning of the Sellafield site after the nuclear reactor there was shut off in 1981.

What’s more, the process is costly: GlobalData estimates that it will cost at least $81 billion to decommission Europe’s reactors between now and 2030, with the biggest markets in France and Russia. Pearce suggests that some countries, such as Britain, may not currently have enough money budgeted for the task — in part because many of its reactors are custom-built and likely to cost more than expected to tear apart.

These sorts of headaches could be one reason why the United States is taking a different approach to its aging plants. The GlobalData report notes that U.S. utilities and regulators have announced plans to extend the lives of 71 nuclear reactors by another 20 years. Between now and 2030, only five U.S. commercial power reactors are expected to be decommissioned. (That’s in addition to the 28 commercial reactors that the United States has already shut down.)

Granted, the United States still has plenty of challenges — as Matthew Wald recently detailed for the New York Times, funds for decommissioning are lagging here, as well. But those problems are somewhat smaller than what Europe will be facing in the next two decades.

#Fukushima Women in "Die-In" Protest in Front of PM Official Residence on June 7

Tokyo Brown Tabby sent me another video that features strong-willed women from Fukushima:

On June 7, 2012, about 70 women including 10 women from Fukushima did a "die-in" in front of the Prime Minister's Official Residence to protest against the restart of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant. Before the die-in, 10 Fukushima women visited the Cabinet Office and met with officials to submit a letter of requests addressed to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

This video clip shows the words from the Fukushima women and part of the die-in.

On the very next day, June 8, 2012, Prime Minister Noda held a press conference and declared he would restart Ooi Nuclear Power Plant.

The original video ( created by OurPlanet-TV ( OurPlanet-TV is an independent net-based media and welcomes donations.

Translation and captioning by tokyobrowntabby.
Video editing by sievert311 (

Monday, June 11, 2012

June 15 Protest Planned Against Ooi Nuke Plant Restart in Front of PM Official Residence, KEPCO

Net citizens in Japan are planning for large demonstrations in front of the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Tokyo and in front of the Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) headquarters in Osaka on Friday June 15, 2012.

If you are in the area (whether you live in Japan or are traveling in Japan), stop by and take in the atmosphere, and feel free to report your experience here in the comment section. (As someone commented in one of the posts about Ooi Nuke Plant restart, the Japanese media do pay a bit more attention if they see people who don't look like native Japanese.)

Last Friday, 4,000 people of all walks of life gathered in front of the Prime Minister's Official Residence to protest the then-ongoing press conference by Noda in which he said he would restart Ooi Nuke Plant to "protect the people's living". The organizers are hoping to have 10,000 people or larger this Friday.

I've been asked if I could spread the information to the foreign residents in Japan by writing a post, so here it is.

Information from a @twitnonukes on the demonstrations is as follows, from their website (I added the addresses):

Date: June 15, 2012
Time: from 6PM

  • Prime Minister's Official Residence [東京都千代田区永田町2丁目3−1 2-3-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, google map]

  • Kansai Electric Power Company headquarters [大阪市北区中之島3丁目6番16号 3-6-16 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka City, google map]

Please refrain from carrying political signs not related to "anti-nuclear".
Please follow the general guidance from the organizers.

Probably by Friday, PM Noda is expected to make his final decision (foregone conclusion, as we all know). And then he's off to Mexico, I hear, to attend G20 meeting.

You can also view the translation of @twitnonukes webpage at this blog.

Professor Yukio Hayakawa Takes #Radioactive Drive in Namie-machi, Iitate-mura in #Fukushima, and Finds Young Policemen at High-Radiation Checkpoint

Professor Hayakawa woke up on Monday June 11 and decided to drive to Namie-machi and Iitate-mura in Fukushima Prefecture with his personal survey meter and two pieces of bread for lunch.

津島小学校 on TwitpicI noticed he was up somewhere in Fukushima when I saw his tweet yesterday with his survey meter showing 8.157 microsieverts/hour with a school building in the background. "Tsushima Elementary School", he wrote. It did turn out to be the school in Tsushima District of Namie-machi.

Hayakawa says in his series of tweets that it took him 14 hours round-trip from Saitama Prefecture, from 6 in the morning to 8 at night.

浪江町津島と飯舘村 at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find trail maps for California and beyond

Hayakawa has always said the designation of the 20-kilometer radius "no-entry" zone is a joke and doesn't fit the reality. On his trip yesterday, he says he spoke with the policemen guarding the checkpoint at the "no-entry zone" in Tsushima District in Namie-machi. According to him, the police was like "20-kilometer radius? What is 20-kilometer radius?":


20-kilometer radius no-entry zone doesn't mean a thing in reality. Three policemen at the gate [checkpoint] were like "What '20 kilometer'?" 20-kilometer [location] on Route 114 is at a power plant [not Fuku-I, but Hirusone hydroelectric plant], but the gate is at the Tsushima Nursery School, at about 28 kilometers. So I couldn't go to Akougi [the location that exceeded 300 microsieverts/hour on March 15 last year].


It was clear by being there that, both in name and in substance, it was decidedly not the local mayors who set the 20-kilometer radius no-entry zone. The laws and regulations have little to do with the reality, and that's been going on for 13 months now. This is no good. No good at all.


The policeman standing at the gate near the Tsushima Nursery School looked to be in his 20s. His superior said he was from Hokkaido, so the young policeman must be also from there. To have such a young person standing on such a location [high radiation], what a cruel country this is.


I was still wandering about in Tsushima when a police car came up and questioned me. They wanted to see my driver's license so I showed it to them obediently. The two policemen were from the Metropolitan Police Department (Tokyo). They said they were on the 2-week tour of duty, and were staying at Iizaka Onsen [hot spring resort near Fukushima City]. They knew about the high radiation [at that location] qualitatively, but didn't seem to have a quantitative understanding.


On my way out, I said to them, "The radiation levels are high here, so please take care." Out of the blue, their commander said, "Slander and calumny!" I was taken aback. I figured they had been told [about the high radiation levels] many, many times.


The commander came out from a roadside building. He seemed to spend most of his day in a relatively low-radiation environment [i.e. inside the building]. The young policemen were wearing 99 masks [masks that can cut 99% of particles as small as 0.1 micron in diameter ]. The commander wasn't.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

1,000 US High School Students to Do Volunteer Cleanup, Tree-Planting in #Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Ibaraki and Observe Japan's Recovery

Following the footsteps of the students from Middle Tennessee State University, 1,000 high school students from across the United States will be volunteering in the disaster affected Tohoku, in Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, and Ibaraki Prefectures. Activities will include clean-up and planting trees, according to the Japanese government foundation who invited them.

From Japan Times (6/10/2012):

1,000 U.S. high school students to start volunteer work in tsunami zones

Around 1,000 high school students and youths from the United States will visit the Tohoku region in three groups from Sunday to carry out volunteer work in four disaster-hit prefectures at the invitation of the Japan Foundation.

Each group will stay in the country for a fortnight and engage in various exchanges with locals in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, according to the foundation, which specializes in cultural exchanges.

Participants in the program will come from 40 schools across the United States, including areas affected by natural disasters in the past, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The last group will arrive in late July.

Some of the students are from the former schools of two young American teachers killed by the March 2011 tsunami — Taylor Anderson from Virginia and Montgomery Dickson from Alaska — who were teaching English at schools in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, and Rikuzentakata in Iwate. Those students will visit both cities, which were devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

All those taking part will also visit Kobe to witness the city's recovery from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.

The above Japan Times article doesn't say much about the students' activities beyond "cultural exchanges", but the Foundation's press release does.

Kyodo News (Japanese) had a PR press release from the Japan Foundation, a government corporation under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in April this year announcing the event. According to the PR release the project is called "Kizuna strengthening project". The high school students from all over the US will visit Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima, Ibaraki, and stay for 2 weeks and do volunteer works (cleaning, planting trees, etc.) and mix with local residents in various activities to experience how the recovery is taking place. The first batch of students will stay in the region from June 10 to 23, the second batch from July 1 to 14, and the third (and the last) one from July 8 and 21.

The Foundation and the ministry behind the Foundation are hoping that these young impressionable students will return to the US and start disseminating the positive, happy images of Japan's wonderful recovery from the earthquake and tsunami disaster of March 11, 2011 to "counter baseless rumors and further the understanding of the situation in Japan by the US citizens" (my translation, from their PR piece).

I almost forgot - this "Kizuna strengthening project" will invite the total 10,000 high school and college students from the US and Asia-Pacific region over 1 year period.

For your information, the original meaning of "kizuna" in Japanese is a "rope that ties down the legs of a horse so that it cannot escape". Some say it is to tie down a cow.

(H/T flyingcuttlefish for Japan Times article)

Off-Site Center for Ooi Nuclear Power Plant, Government's Key to Nuclear Safety

The Off-Site Center for Ooi Nuclear Power Plantis located at about 7 kilometers from the plant, at the foot of the peninsula and on what looks like a landfill. The access to the plant from the Center, as you can see, is either through the long bridge to the east, or around the coast to the west, and getting on to the only road (Route 241) to the plant. (Zoom out on the map below to see the plant.)

It's a spiffy-looking facility full of light and huge video conferencing screens and computers. Just like in the case of the Off-Site Center for Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, I suppose they are assuming they will have access to abundant electricity even when a large earthquake hits. Not to mention roads remaining open and in good shape after such a quake...

View Larger Map

Here's the document detailing the "Special Surveillance Measures" that Prime Minister Noda has promised to assure safety of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant restart (yes, the one about stationing the Senior Vice Minister), from the nuclear safety specialist committee of the Fukui prefectural government. The document was apparently prepared by the Ministry of the Environment, on the occasion of Minister Hosono's visit to the prefecture earlier. According to the document, the senior vice minister won't be at the plant itself but at this Off-Site Center:

Under the "Members" and "Functions" (middle of the document), it says:


  1. Senior Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

  2. Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (including Deputy Director-General level personnel, total of about 10 people)

  3. Kansai Electric Power Company (Vice President level)

  4. Nuclear plant manufacturer [Toshiba, Hitachi]

  5. Persons of learning and experience

* We [the national government] wants Fukui Prefecture to cooperate, with its over 40 years of experience and ability to face nuclear safety.


  • Connected through the teleconference system at all time, constantly monitor the restart, and provide information to the citizens.

  • In case of an emergency, immediately grasp and analyze the situation, and decide on the necessary countermeasures.

  • In case of a nuclear emergency, the Senior Vice Minister will act as the local head of the emergency headquarters, and implement measures to respond to the plant accident.

So they will solely rely on the plant manufacturers (the only ones who know anything).

In the paragraph second from the bottom, it says:

The teleconference system will be on all the time, connecting the plant, the Off-Site Center, KEPCO, and NISA. In case of an emergency, the Prime Minister's Official Residence and the plant will be connected.

No joke...

Now, you can laugh and be merry. It's good for you, remember?

#Tsunami Debris: 1.5 Tonnes of Seaweed, Mussels, Barnacles, Starfish Hitched Ride on the Dock from Aomori

There may be little to no worry about radiation (other than natural background), but the floating dock from Misawa Port in Aomori Prefecture in Japan that washed up on the Oregon coast had 1.5 tonnes of marine life that had hitched the 5,000-mile ride. Half of the plant species on the dock already exist on the west coast, according to the AP article below, meaning the remainder don't and may be "invasive species".

From My Way News quoting AP article (6/9/2012; emphasis is mine):

Invasive species ride tsunami debris to US shore

When a floating dock the size of a boxcar washed up on a sandy beach in Oregon, beachcombers got excited because it was the largest piece of debris from last year's tsunami in Japan to show up on the West Coast.

But scientists worried it represented a whole new way for invasive species of seaweed, crabs and other marine organisms to break the earth's natural barriers and further muck up the West Coast's marine environments. And more invasive species could be hitching rides on tsunami debris expected to arrive in the weeks and months to come.

"We know extinctions occur with invasions," said John Chapman, assistant professor of fisheries and invasive species specialist at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center. "This is like arrows shot into the dark. Some of them could hit a mark."

Though the global economy has accelerated the process in recent decades by the sheer volume of ships, most from Asia, entering West Coast ports, the marine invasion has been in full swing since 1869, when the transcontinental railroad brought the first shipment of East Coast oysters packed in seaweed and mud to San Francisco, said Andrew Cohen, director of the Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions in Richmond, Calif. For nearly a century before then, ships sailing up the coast carried barnacles and seaweeds.

Now, hotspots like San Francisco Bay amount to a "global zoo" of invasive species and perhaps 500 plants and animals from foreign shores have established in U.S. marine waters, said James Carlton, professor of marine sciences at Williams College. They come mostly from ship hulls and the water ships take on as ballast, but also get dumped into bays from home aquariums.

The costs quickly mount into the untold billions of dollars. Mitten crabs from China eat baby Dungeness crabs that are one of the region's top commercial fisheries. Spartina, a ropey seaweed from Europe, chokes commercial oyster beds. Shellfish plug the cooling water intakes of power plants. Kelps and tiny shrimp-like creatures change the food web that fish, marine mammals and even humans depend on.

A 2004 study in the scientific journal Ecological Economics estimated 400 threatened and endangered species in the U.S. are facing extinction because of pressures from invasive species.

It is too early for scientists to know how much Japanese tsunami debris may add to the invasive species already here.

"It may only introduce one thing," said Cohen of the Aquatic Bioinvasions research center. "But if that thing turns out to be a big problem, we would rather it not happen. There could be an economic impact, an ecological impact, or even a human health impact."

The dock, torn loose from a fishing port on the northern tip of Japan, was covered with 1.5 tons of seaweed, mussels, barnacles and even a few starfish. Volunteers scraped it all off, buried it above the high water line, and sterilized the top and sides of the dock with torches.

But there was no telling whether they might already have released spores or larvae that could establish a foothold in a bay or estuary as it floated along the coast, said Carlton.

"That's the 'Johnny Clamseed' approach," he said, referring to Johnny Appleseed, the pioneer apple tree planter of the early 19th century. "While that is theoretical, we don't actually know if that kind of thing happens."

Chapman estimated there were hundreds of millions of individual living organisms on the dock when it washed up on Agate Beach outside Newport, Ore.

But even a small plastic float that washed up on a beach in Alaska carried a live oyster, said Mandy Lindeberg, research scientist at the NOAA Fisheries Auke Bay Laboratories in Juneau, Alaska.

The smaller bits of plastic expected to make up most of the tsunami debris won't have anything except species they picked up at sea, said Carlton.

On the dock, about half the plant species already exist on the West Coast, said Gayle Hansen, a research marine taxonomist at Oregon State University, who has spent hours with her eye scrunched up against a microscope examining samples from the dock.

Among the exotic seaweeds was one known as wakame, which has become a nuisance around the world, but is not yet found in Oregon, she said.

Whether hitchhiking species will survive here depends on randomness, she said. Seaweeds probably would not have survived to reproduce in the crashing surf at Agate Beach. It's the wrong kind of environment. But if they had floated into Yaquina Bay, very similar to their home waters in Japan, they could grow and reproduce.

Lindeberg said, "The only defense for invasive species is early detection. Just like cancer."

While monitoring is relatively cheap, say $30,000 to watch nearby waters for species from the dock, trying to stop an established invasion is expensive. California spent $7 million trying to eradicate a seaweed, she said.

She said she hoped there would be funding for monitoring tsunami invasive species.

James Morris, a marine ecologist and invasive species specialist at the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, in Beaufort, N.C., said the idea a natural disaster like the tsunami could introduce a new avenue for invasive species is intriguing.

"It goes to show you that when it comes to invasive species, there are some things you can work to regulate and control," he said. "And there are issues like this that come up that open up a whole different realm of possibilities."

Oh. I didn't know one of my favorite seaweeds, wakame, is considered a big nuisance...