Posts Tagged ‘Aomori’

Safe food is getting scarcer in Japan, even out of the no man’s land, in what I call the monitored land. Surviving in Japan supposes boycotting any food from areas northeastern of Nagoya included and of course any sea product from the North Pacific Ocean. This strict rule makes shopping complicated but nowhere as eating out. The end of the year brings a new threat in traditional food gifts that Japanese offer, i.e. “oseibo” (in Japanese 「お歳暮」. It is hard to be always on one’s guard and make rational choices as to what to eat and it is socially a burden when one constantly has to ask for the source of ingredients of any food in shops and restaurants. Furthermore, when the temptation is from one’s relatives and friends, it is almost impossible for anyone to resist and discard the gift, like Snow White could not decline the shiny red apple for the gentle old, poor woman who actually was intent on killing her.


Various blogs reported that French ambassador Philippe Faure left Japan this month. France was among the first country to advise expats to quickly leave Japan in March 2011 when the situation was not really critical in Tokyo, provoking mass hysteria in the French community. As reported in SurvivalJapan, it now is critical in Tokyo and the outlook for the whole of Japan is negative essentially due to dangerous policies. French Embassy website recommendations towards the French community repeats the same message as the Japanese government, i.e. all Japan is safe but Fukushima – meanwhile the ambassador left the country. French Embassy therefore joined German Embassy in its officials fleeing Japan (Cf. Nuclear Crisis Causes Vacant Posts at German Embassy in SurvivalJapan). It is rumored that Yukio Edano, chief Cabinet secretary in the previous administration and responsible for the nuclear crisis mismanagement before becoming the current Minister of Economy, had sent his family to safety in Singapore since March 11, but would sue anyone supporting this rumor. US ambassador John Roos still holds his position in Tokyo so far.

In our Japan Livability Map September 2011, we showed that the only remaining nuclear-free land in Japan is the Okinawa archipelago. It may be a tempting relocation strategy for expats who want to stay in Japan in safe conditions, and some Japanese have already made the move from Tokyo to save their children, as can be read in this WSJ article  and this one too. Recently, Shinsuke Shimada, a prominent show-business local figure embroidered in a mafia scandal is rumored to have moved in his holiday house there permanently. As a side note, Okinawa is famous in Japan as a refuge for law enforcement fugitives… There are two main issues to consider for expats looking down south, which are directly linked with the same in the rest of Japan:

1. Contaminated food

Okinawa is a tropical area so a lot of food is imported from mainland Japan. Although the main provider is relatively safe Kyushu island, itself being subtropical, some produce has to come from more temperate, albeit “hotter” parts of Japan. Besides, the free flow of food implies that some tainted ingredients will inevitably be mixed in factories all over the nation, like some great red wines are sometimes illegally cut with lower quality wines that producers need to get rid of, without most people noticing. Unless your diet is exclusively based on mango, goat liver noodle soup, bitter goya salad, “sea grapes” seaweed, premium local beef, Awamori (vodka-like local “sake”), etc., chances are that you’ll still ingest some irradiated food on the long-term. Ask yourself questions like how can you keep forever your kids from eating tainted ice-cream in a tropical island?

Expats usually enjoy a high living standard and candidates to Okinawa relocation will most probably need to resign from their current position and set up a low-profitability, high-risk business as local unemployment is high, level of living low and the economic sectors very focused and much less developed than in mainland. The lower living standard means that purchasing expensive, nuclear-free, imported food will become impossible for these new-comers. More about these consequences in issue no. 2 below.

2. Nuclear waste

Governments like to place dangerous sites away from the capital city where their offices and families reside. For instance, in Japan, the MOX reprocessing plant is as far north as possible on the main island, in Rokkasho village of the Aomori prefecture. Okinawa used to not be Japanese, it is a source of constant trouble for the Japanese government between the US army bases and Chinese spying missions and challenges, it is relatively sparsely populated, its participation in GNP is modest and most of all, it is as far as one can get from Tokyo. All these reasons should make it very tempting for politicians to choose it as a perfect nuclear waste deposit site. So if you flee from a contaminated land, there is a high chance that you’d be settling in a future contaminated one. However if you read issue no. 1 above, you know that you will mostly likely be too poor by that time to evacuate back home.

As a matter of fact, the government just settled for an operation planning with waste deposits (undisclosed sites) starting this January, as can be read in the Yomiuri Shimbun article below. More interestingly, the Japanese article from Ryukyu Shimpo hereafter simply confirm our hypothesis of a deposit in Okinawan most beautiful islands. It just makes sense that, as nuclear power plants are the main income source in rural Japan, that nuclear power waste sites will be sought after by the same.

We leave out of the discussion possible threats of a Chinese invasion / bombing in Okinawa and other unhealthy issues such as agent orange spread around and buried by the American army, as well as their unofficial, hidden nuclear weapons and hazardous materials in their bases, nor will we delve into rapes and fights by their personnel. Anyway, the main island of Okinawa where these issues exist, is an uninteresting concrete sprawl, so we are only considering the true smaller gems of the archipelago in this post.

As a conclusion, relocating in Okinawa is a medium-term viable strategy at best and candidates should be able to rely on their Embassy and wealthy relatives to organize and fund a repatriation when the archipelago will not be nuclear-free anymore and their own financial resources will have dried up in the settling process.

The Yomiuri Shimbun article is reproduced below :

Apart from the ludicrously inefficient  “usual practice to remove soil up to a depth of five centimeters”, the main highlight is the following (bold characters by SurvivalJapan), as decontamination means here waste spread kick-off date:

“The Environment Ministry will draw up plans based on a law concerning special measures on dealing with environmental contamination by radioactive substances as early as the end of November and start full-scale decontamination in January.”

28 million cubic meters of ‘hot’ soil in Fukushima / Ministry aims to set storage site guidelines

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Up to 28 million cubic meters of soil contaminated by radioactive substances may have to be removed in Fukushima Prefecture, according to the Environment Ministry.

In a simulation, the ministry worked out nine patterns according to the rates of exposure to and decontamination of radioactive materials in soil, mainly in forests.

The ministry found if all the areas which were exposed to 5 millisieverts or more per year were to be decontaminated, 27.97 million cubic meters of contaminated soil would have to be removed. The calculation covered 13 percent of the prefecture’s area.

These figures indicate the size of the temporary facilities that will be needed to store the soil, and the capacity of intermediate storage facilities where the soil will be taken later.

The assumptions were made using three categories according to yearly radiation doses in soil–20 millisieverts or more; 5 millisieverts or more; and 5 millisieverts or more plus some areas with contamination of from 1 to 5 millisieverts.

The three categories were divided further according to possible decontamination rates in forests–100 percent, 50 percent and 10 percent. The resulting nine patterns were broken down further to include “houses and gardens,” “schools and child care centers” and “farmland.”

The ministry calculated that the largest amount of contaminated soil was 28.08 million cubic meters in the case of 100 percent decontamination in forests in the category of 5 millisieverts or more plus some areas with contamination of from 1 to 5 millisieverts.

The smallest amount was 5.08 million cubic meters if 10 percent decontamination is carried out in forests with radiation doses of 20 millisieverts or more.

In the breakdown of areas with yearly radiation doses of 5 millisieverts or more, it was found 1.02 million cubic meters of soil should be removed from houses and gardens, 560,000 cubic meters from schools and child care centers and 17.42 million cubic meters from farmland.

The total amount of contaminated soil with a yearly radiation dose of 5 millisieverts or more is 27.97 million cubic meters in the case of 100 percent decontamination in forests that cover an area of 1,777 square kilometers.

The figures will be submitted Tuesday to a ministry study group that decides on the nation’s decontamination policy.

The ministry made its calculation based on an aerial survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and a land use survey by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

A senior Environment Ministry official said, “The standard we basically agreed on at a study meeting is decontamination in areas with yearly radiation doses of 5 millisieverts or more.”

Even though forests occupy about 70 percent of contaminated areas in the prefecture, the ministry does not believe it will be necessary to remove all contaminated soil, as long as the government restricts the entry of residents in mountainous areas and recovers cut branches and fallen leaves, according to the official.

The usual practice is to remove soil up to a depth of five centimeters. However, a senior official said this depends on the location of the contaminated soil.

The Environment Ministry will draw up plans based on a law concerning special measures on dealing with environmental contamination by radioactive substances as early as the end of November and start full-scale decontamination in January.

But the government still has not procured sufficient storage sites for contaminated soil, which has been temporarily buried in school yards or piled on vacant lots.

According to the central government, contaminated soil should be collected at temporary storage sites by local governments. The government recommends placing impermeable sheets under the soil at locations far from living areas.

The government also has no prospect of setting up intermediate storage facilities. Shortly before he stepped down, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan called on the Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato to set up facilities in the prefecture. The request was rejected.

Contaminated soil must be removed as soon as possible to allow evacuees to return to their houses within no-entry and evacuation zones.

(Sep. 26, 2011)

After Environment minister M. Goshi Hosono considered the possibility to spread radiation to the whole of Japan (Cf. Hosono’s Spread of Radioactivity Decision Promoted by Mainichi Daily News), Industry minister M. Yoshio Hachiro admitted in an article published yesterday by the same newspaper which regularly relays and supports the goverment policies, that Japan had received an offer from French nuclear power company Areva SA to take charge of spent nuclear fuel from Fukushima, and hence start spreading radiation from the disaster in other countries. France and Japan regularly share their nuclear waste. For instance, France (and UK) sent 1800 kg of plutonium in form of Mixed Oxide (MOX) to Japan in February 2009, enough to built 225 nuclear bombs, according to Greenpeace. In a precursor of the inanity that would follow during the whole mismanagement of the Fukushima crisis, half of the MOX was returned because of its poor quality and unusuability. Yet shipments continued with the latest not later than August 2011, according to a report from World Nuclear News. Since the article from Mainichi Daily News advertises a supposed plan by the government to move out of nuclear energy, this MOX shipment in the middle of the nuclear crisis casts some doubt about its real intentions. The purpose of this SurvivalJapan post is to illustrate that European expats who leave Japan may run from the devil into the deep blue sea. Indeed, the nuclear waste may follow them back home and this should be pondered in deciding of a survival strategy.

Today, Asahi Shimbun published an article which content focuses on the French proposal. Besides providing some background to this story, it reminds us that Japan is building its own reprocessing facility in Rokkasho, Aomori prefecture, at the northern tip of Honshu island. The facility is due for completion in 2012, to extract plutonium from domestic spent nuclear fuel… Besides the danger of the place, and to return to the Mainichi Daily News propaganda, if the Japanese government really meant to have zero nuclear power plant in the future, and given the poor state of its finance, wouldn’t it immediately stop the project for a reprocessing facility? The answer is clearly that the government is trying to calm down the public concern and gain some popularity and trust, yet by making untrustful statements which are not consistent with the current nuclear activities of MOX import and Rokkasho continuous project. Furthermore, the nuclear industry is the first source of local government profits and job creation in rural areas, as is explained in an excellent New York Times article titled “In Japan, a Culture That Promotes Nuclear Dependency”. Unfortunately, nuclear power plants are here to stay in Japan no matter what the government says – we should find where they are the least dangerous and the most far away (apparently only in Okinawa).

The Mainichi article / government propaganda is reproduced hereafter :

No. of Japan’s nuclear plants to be zero in future: Hachiro

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant operated by Chubu Electric Power Co. is pictured in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, from a Mainichi helicopter in this February 2011 photo. (Mainichi)

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant operated by Chubu Electric Power Co. is pictured in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, from a Mainichi helicopter in this February 2011 photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Industry minister Yoshio Hachiro said Tuesday that the number of Japan’s nuclear power plants would be “zero” in the future, based on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s policy of not building new nuclear power plants and decommissioning aged ones.

“Considering the premier’s remarks at press conferences, it would be zero,” Hachiro told reporters in answer to the question whether the number of nuclear plants would reduce to none in the future.

Hachiro added that it would be “difficult” to proceed with plans to build new nuclear plants whose construction has yet to begin, such as Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Kaminoseki plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture. “Public opinion is generally united in reducing (nuclear plants), instead of increasing them,” he said.

In this file photo, the Genkai nuclear power plant, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Co., is seen in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, on Dec. 7, 2009. (Mainichi)

In this file photo, the Genkai nuclear power plant, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Co., is seen in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, on Dec. 7, 2009. (Mainichi)

As for nuclear power plants whose construction has begun, such as Chugoku Electric’s Shimane plant’s No. 3 reactor in Shimane Prefecture and Electric Power Development Co.’s Oma nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture, Hachiro said he intends to make a decision based on discussions at the ministry’s advisory committee on energy and natural resources.

Japan currently plans to set up 12 reactors nationwide, excluding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s No. 7 and 8 reactors, whose construction plan was canceled by the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the wake of the nuclear crisis at the complex. But construction has not progressed much for most of the projects.

As for the resumption of reactors idled for regular checkups, Hachiro said that Noda has approved a plan to seek safety assessments from the International Atomic Energy Agency as part of the so-called nuclear “stress tests” introduced by the Japanese government given the Fukushima crisis.

Hachiro has said he aims to resume operations of the halted reactors nationwide soon once their safety is thoroughly checked and local municipalities hosting the plants approve their resumption.

A photograph shows the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.(Mainichi)

A photograph shows the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.(Mainichi)

Meanwhile, Hachiro admitted that Japan has received an offer from French nuclear power company Areva SA to take charge of spent nuclear fuel at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant, but he did not reveal Japan’s response to the offer.

(Mainichi Japan) September 6, 2011

The Asahi Shimbun article is reproduced hereafter :

French offered to take Fukushima fuel, Kan says



Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, left, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon at the OECD 50th Anniversary Forum at the OECD headquarters, in Paris, France, 25 May. (AP file photo)

France offered to dispose of spent fuel from the stricken Fukushima No. 1 power plant following the nuclear disaster, but Japan has yet to reply to the proposal, Naoto Kan told The Asahi Shimbun on Sept. 5 in his first interview since stepping down as prime minister.

Kan said French Prime Minister Francois Fillon made the offer when they met at the Group of Eight summit in Deauville, France, in late May.

“France said it would be willing to carry back the spent nuclear fuel,” Kan said. “While it may have been a sort of business opportunity, I naturally passed on the suggestion to bureaucrats at the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry (METI),” Kan said.

He said the Japanese government is still discussing the French proposal. There is strong opposition from within METI because of a feeling among officials that allowing France to dispose of the spent nuclear fuel would upset the Japanese government’s established policy of recycling its own nuclear fuel domestically.

According to initial investigations by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant, the spent nuclear fuel in the storage pools of the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors was not as badly damaged as fuel within the reactor cores. There were 3,108 nuclear fuel rods in the pools, of which 2,724 were spent.

France has some of the world’s most advanced fuel reprocessing technology, and disposing of the spent Fukushima rods would provide an opportunity to publicize those capabilities.

Japan no longer uses French facilities to reprocess spent fuel and has its own reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, that is scheduled for completion in 2012. The Rokkasho facility would extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.

METI officials fear that giving France the Fukushima work could be taken as a sign that it has given up on its own recycling plan. No response was given to Paris about Fillon’s proposal, and the matter is still being considered by a government panel on energy and the environment.