Thursday, September 19, 2013

Shinzo Abe at Fukushima Daiichi: "よろしくお願いします"

"The future of Japan is on your shoulders, 
the government will step forward and take concrete measures, I rely on you, Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu..."

Shinzo Abe at Daiichi today.

Arrived at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant at noon today. Shinzo Abe was wearing white tyvek protective gear, with a full-face mask and a red helmet. He had a label on his back saying "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe" written in black. He visited Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant during a three-hour tour. First stop of the plant tour was the command centre, where Abe greeted about a dozen workers who patrol the site.

"As I stated in Buenos Aires, Abe said, I am convinced that the contaminated water leaks have been confined to an area of 0.3 square kilometre within the cove next to the plant. In light of that, I will work hard to counter rumours questioning the safety of the Fukushima plant." --A few days ago, Kazuhiko Yamashita, a senior Tepco official, said the water leaks were not under control--

FDI plant chief, Akira Ono said Tepco is patrolling the tanks four times a day, using 90 people. They are also planning install water gauges to keep tabs on the water volumes in the tanks. Ono hopes to replace the rubber-jointed tanks with welded tanks by the end of the year.

Shinzo Abe ordered the plant operator to address all the leaks within six months, he gave instructions for decommissioning of two reactors R 5 and R 6, also inspected storage tanks holding radioactive water and water treatment equipment.

"The future of Japan is on your shoulders," Abe said during a visit to the plant's command centre. "The government will step forward and take concrete measures. I am counting on you to do your best."

(Pool Report of our FPIJ reporter)

This "rumours" thing is an issue that will have to be thoroughly monitored, as freedom of press and constitutional rights of freedom of speech for employees or public servant, providing this is not as matter of national security, could be at risk, foreign observers say. The border line is thin.

Interesting meeting was organised by the ambassador, the nuclear attaché, and the press and communication attaché at the French embassy about Fukushima and the follow up of the visit of French president Hollande, with a few French journalists correspondent in Japan Thursday. The ambassador reaffirmed to the five of us that Japan is in need to reopen 12 reactors in a context of new safety rules. There is also a need for Japan to learn how to communicate better. France has developed an important and comprehensive cooperation with Japan on nuclear industry for the last 2 decades.

A few hours after prime minister Abe visit on Daiichi, on September 20th at 02:25am, early morning, a new earthquake of M5.3 jolted the region near Fukushima Daiichi. Tepco denied any impact on the plant.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Earthquake, tsunami, typhoon. Fukushima's Enigma.

Since Day-1, March 11th 2011, I covered the 311 triple catastrophes, therefore brought in lots of news to my news partners. I have my sources, they are diverse, plus what I acquired in the last 20 years in Japan. I naturally realise since this 311 accident, more than ever, the amazing power of the rich nations' governments, power of the energy producing, oil, gas, nuclear and green industries and their leverage on world media.

People talked about media control in the early months of Fukushima accident, in 2011, but 30 months have passed. Today, how many are aware of the advertising campaigns thrown into the media by this power energy industry to conceal dangerous factors from the public? In French we talk about "instrumentaliser quelqu'un". So it is. It should always take time to explain calmly what the situation is in Fukushima because of the magnitude of business and political interests set behind Daiichi "stricken reactors".

"Japan’s power-supply industry, collectively, is Japan’s biggest advertiser, spending ¥88 billion (more than $1 billion) a year, according to the Nikkei Advertising Research Institute. Tepco’s ¥24.4 billion alone is roughly half what a global firm as large as Toyota spends in a year wrote David McNeill in Japan Times in 2012."

I am not just talking about protecting the nuclear energy or how to conceive a secure nuclear energy industry, or about the 2020 Olympics if they ever happen to be organized in Japan. I am talking about the means employed for the survival of an industry, which frightens the whole world because it forgot just two things: it is a dangerous form of energy without proper technicians, and the nuclear cycle is not an exact concept. Imagine living today in a house without bathroom?

Living and working here in Japan, we could monitor and see the points made by pro and anti nuclear organizations and individuals. Some of my Paris friends and colleagues even told me recently that they would look at it twice before to come to visit Japan or to report here. Question is: Has the world really taken the correct measurement of the catastrophe and of the catastrophe on health impact for local and foreign near by population, especially concerned the aged and the youth? Not yet, because the access to information is complicated. As a press member, who chaired the Freedom of press committee at Fccj a couple of years ago, and who is still monitoring these issues, I cannot say this is a satisfactory situation.

Example regarding toxic waters thrown out in the ocean yesterday after the 18th Typhoon Man-yi: You remember, as I reported from the press club early this September, that Mr. Tanaka of the NRA stated publicly that Tepco already discharged contaminated water (water in contact with the melted core). These toxic elements are Cesium 137, Strontium 90, and Tritium leaked in the nearby Pacific Ocean. Now what happened yesterday is fascinating as far as news coverage is concerned.

I was asked to air a report yesterday for Paris about the typhoon Man-yi on Fukushima and about the workers who were pumping out water (rain and contaminated water) from areas near tanks storing radioactive waters, especially talking about the leaks near and under the reactor buildings, about the pipes and the groundwater. It was nothing exceptional to accomplish for reporters and news was aired all day long by Japanese media. Due to the heavy fall of typhoon Man Yi. And what we had to deal with was simple verification. Checking who says what, why, when. Was it done? Mostly  with what we had. But then was the information aired with enough descriptions and precisely?

I noticed especially that NHK in the afternoon and other TVs, twitter and blogs announced amazing things such as the 140000 Bq/L discovered nearby the water tankers, about the strength of the typhoon winds, or about the waves rolling on the shore nearby the Dai Ichi. So many added details that cannot make it to the news-hour because they are too long to film or to voice. But media people mostly focused on the release of contaminated water under 30 Bq/L into the ocean, it means below the 30 Becquerel per liter safety limit imposed by Japan government for a possible release into the environment.

When the night news came, some Japanese media avoided repeating all the news that had to deal with leakage of highly contaminated water and rain, even censuring their own previous news. Only mentioning the news that was "reassuring" for the audience. What does it say for the future of an honest coverage, people cooperation and understanding for the next... 30 years? They should be more demanding, more active and defend the press principals, not bowing to the empty communiqué or the disdain of Japanese nuclear authorities.

And the show is not over. Here again the No. 4 reactor in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, is being taken offline since mid September for refueling and maintenance, Japan is one more time without nuclear power energy, from what we are told by governement. Even though Fukushima Dai Ichi crisis is worsening, Shinzo Abe government’s commitment to restart many of the 50 reactors appears stronger than ever. There is only one reason, and this reason is that energy industry goes first, first before people's lives. It's a choice. Does it satisfy people?

"Having invested trillions of yen in nuclear plants and technology that it is counting on selling to a burgeoning global industry, many of Japan’s business and political leaders appear reluctant to give it up. Local communities are divided: Many have relied heavily on nuclear plants for jobs and tax revenues, but worry over potential risks. Still, Abe has pledged to pursue renewable energy and backed reforms that would separate power generation and distribution, aimed at getting utilities to retool their electricity grids so they can absorb solar and wind power generated by households, companies and other independent sources" as my AP foreign journalist colleague Elaine Kurtenbach wrote.

Since 30 months, since Fukushima accident, I interviewed many people, experts, technicians, engineers, officials, including those who often say how authorities or "scientific" media admires Chernobyl and Fukushima crisis managements. Even if such management is wrongly encouraged. Indeed we know that some editors consider IAEA, UNSCEAR, WHO and ICRP reports as scientific productions. Lenient? Years pass and we do not have reports, for instance, of the 2003 Chernobyl impact on children. The “Epice IRSN study on Russian children” was to be released this May 2013 but has not yet reached public knowledge, and there are some voices and scientists who challenge the methodology because we know that some specific documents won't be published, as French investigative online daily “Mediapart” reported. So, we still do not know the consequence on health for kids and future life since Chernobyl.

It could be said about Fukushima too. People, audience, media do not know the exact situation at Fukushima Dai Ichi. What happened, why, how and what about the current situation and risk? Tepco the new Japan Shogun rules on industry, media and politicians. How long time will Japanese society bare the risk of being hostage of an unreliable organization? How long does it take to cut from the little monkey philosophy that is patterned into refusing watching listening and speaking the truth?

Links of articles mentioned:
Edited at 20:30 JST Sep 17.